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FROM-THE- LIBRARY-OF 
TRINITYCOLLEGETORDNTO 




THE 

HISTORY AND TEACHING 



OP THE 



PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 



BY 



J. S. TEULON, M.A., 

PBEBENDABY OF THE CATHEDRAL, AND VICE-PBINCIPAL 
OF THE THEOLO&ICAL COLLEGE, CHICHESTEB- 



tsfjtfi tm&er tfje JBimtinn of t^e &ract 



LOKDON: 

SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE, 
NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, CHARING CROSS; 

43 QUEEN VICTOEIA STEEET ; 

26 ST. GEOEGE'S PLACE, HYDE PAEK COBWEB. 

BBIGHTON: 135 NOETH STEEET. 



New York: E. & J. B. Young & Co. 

$ 



'00 



1 1 7 ;t i <* 

OCT 3 1 1S34 



PREFACE. 

THE writer of this little book contributed an 
Article on the Plymouth Brethren to the Church 
Quarterly Review of April 1879. He has, how 
ever, carefully examined the whole subject 
again, and recast his treatment of it ; while 
several elements in the teaching- of the Brethren, 
which found no notice in the Article, have 
been dealt with in the following pages. It has 
been his endeavour throughout to gain his 
acquaintance with their system from a careful 
study of their own recognised writers, and 
while he has read such treatises of their op 
ponents as have come into his hands, he is not 
aware that he has accepted a single statement 
as, 'to their teaching which he has not found to 
be fully confirmed by themselves. 

January 1883. 



B 2 






CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

INTRODUCTION 



CHAPTER II. 

THE HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN . . 8 

CHAPTER III. 
THE CHURCH 23 

CHAPTER IV. 

THE RESOURCE OF THE FAITHFUL AMID THE RUIN 

OF THE CHURCH 43 

CHAPTER V. 
JUSTIFICATION 62 

CHAPTER VI. 

SANCTIFICATION 87 

CHAPTER VII. 

THE CHRISTIAN'S RULE OF LIFE . . . .115 

CHAPTER VIII. 

THE RELATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN TO THE WORLD . 142 

CHAPTER IX. 

PROPHECY 171 



CHAPTER I. 

INTRODUCTION. 

THE religious movement with which these 
pages are concerned has arisen during the 
present century. From very small begin 
nings it has in the course of fifty years at 
tained a wide-spread influence, and has en 
listed under its banner persons of distinguished 
rank and of the highest intellectual culture. 
Nor has its work been by any means confined 
to the country of its birth. It has found a home 
in many continental States ; it is well known 
in the colonies, and in America ; while in 
most of the larger towns of Great Britain its 
representatives have their places of assembly. 
Though it employs evangelistic agencies to 
make its tenets known, and to gather in its 
converts, the main instrument of its propaga 
tion has been the press rather than the pulpit, 
and numbers, to whom the society itself is 
little more than a name, have unconsciously 



6 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

imbibed its principles from a perusal of its 
periodicals, its pamphlets, and its leaflets. 

It is always instructive, and often most 
interesting, to trace the rise of an influential 
school or sect, to note the circumstances 
which gave it birth, and the different forms 
which it has assumed in the course of its 
development. Such movements are not the 
result of chance ; nor do they merely represent 
the product of individual piety, genius, or 
self-will. Though in most cases they may be 
referred to some individual founder, they 
could never gain wide acceptance unless they 
were felt in a measure to supply some want 
of the age ; and therefore a careful study 
of them will often furnish us with a key to 
the religious history of the day in which they 
arose. But the interest and instruction are 
multiplied tenfold when the movement under 
consideration has arisen in our own age. It 
then becomes a paramount duty to examine 
it with care. It throws light upon the period 
in which we live, and even in its most ab 
normal developments may remind the Church 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 7 

of the day of some portion of her inherit 
ance of truth which has been forgotten for 
a season, but for the revival of which the 
circumstances of the time are imperatively 
calling; while on the other hand the special 
character of any false teaching which may 
accompany such movements demands the 
attentive and dispassionate examination of 
all who desire to see their way through the 
perplexities of their time, and to secure the 
religious interests of their country. All these 
considerations apply in full force to the re 
markable movement with which we are now 
concerned. Its rapid growth, its wide-spread 
influence, its tenacious hold on those who join 
it, all go to show that it is felt by many both 
in this and foreign countries to furnish some 
kind of supply to the religious necessities of 
the age. An examination of it then may help 
us to see what these necessities are, and should 
lead Churchmen to enquire further whether 
the Church herself out of the abundant stores 
committed to her keeping is not fully able to 
supply them. 



CHAPTER II. 

THE HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH 
BRETHREN. 

ABOUT the year 1838 a small company of 
devout men, chiefly churchmen, were in the 
habit of meeting in a house in Dublin for the 
study of the Scriptures, mutual conference, 
and prayer. The main object of these re 
ligious exercises was the deepening of their 
own spiritual life, and the strengthening of 
those bonds which bound them as Christians 
to each other. But over and above this they 
were much exercised in mind about the state 
of the Religious World. They believed in the 
near approach of the second Advent of our 
Lord, but they saw around them few visible 
signs of preparation for His coming. Both the 
Church and the sects fell far short of the 
ideal exhibited in the New Testament ; there 



HISTOEY OF THE PLYMOUTH BEETHEEN. '9 

was much deadness and apathy in both, and 
there seemed little hope of a return to a better 
state of things. Nor were they by any means 
satisfied with the results of the great religious 
revival, which marked the close of the last 
and the opening of the present century. They 
admired indeed the devoted piety, the self- 
denial, the missionary zeal, which charac 
terised it ; they heartily sympathised with its 
representatives in their allegiance to the fun 
damental verities of the faith ; but the move 
ment appeared to them to have passed over 
certain truths of vast importance, and so to 
have failed in accomplishing all the good 
that once lay within its power. For instance, 
far too little regard had been paid by it to 
the principle of Church unity ; existing divi 
sions had been reinforced ; a new and formid 
able sect had arisen, and the principle of 
separation had in many quarters ceased to be 
regarded as any deviation from the Divine 
order. Moreover the vast amount of evan 
gelistic work, for which the necessities of 
the time were calling, had led many of the 



10 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

clergy to devote their attention almost ex 
clusively to the conversion of sinners; the 
necessity of developing the spiritual life of 
the converted, and building them up on 
their most Holy Faith, had been too often 
forgotten. 

Accordingly we may notice, even in the 
earliest writings of the Brethren, an emphatic 
reassertion of these portions of the truth. In 
their very first pamphlet, for example, which 
was entitled " The Nature and Unity of the 
Church of Christ," the existing divisions of 
Christendom were denounced, and the neces 
sity of visible unity strongly urged. The 
centre of unity was asserted to be the death 
of Christ, while the Lord's Supper was set 
forth as its proper symbol and instrument, 
and accordingly a frequent celebration of that 
sacred rite formed from the very commence 
ment an essential feature of the movement. 
In another early paper * we read, " At this 
time the Lord's purpose is to gather as well 
as to save, to realise unity, not merely in the 

1 Keflections on the present ruin of the Church, p. 3. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 11 

heavens, where the purposes of God shall surely 
be accomplished, but here on earth, by the 
One Spirit sent down from Heaven." In 
the same way the necessity of edification, or 
building up believers in the faith, has from 
the beginning held a prominent place in their 
teaching. Indeed the great purpose of the 
assembly of the Brethren has always confess 
edly been not the awakening or the conver 
sion of sinners, but the strengthening of the 
saints. 

The reader will recognise here some of the 
same elements of teaching which characterised 
the Church Eevival of 1833, as well as the 
new community which arose about the same 
time under the auspices of Edward Irving in 
London. All three movements endeavoured to 
give prominence to these portions of the truth, 
and varied from each other chiefly in the widely 
different methods which they severally adopted 
for giving expression to them. The Tractarians 
sought both unity and edification in a resto 
ration of primitive doctrine and discipline ; 
the Irvingites proclaimed a new dispensation 



12 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

and a revived apostolate ; the method adopted 
by the Brethren will be described in the 
following pages. 

At a very early period of their history the 
Brethren had adopted the notion, that the 
ministration of the Word and Sacraments 
was the right of all Christians independently 
of any ordination. The idea is said to have 
been first suggested by a Mr. A. N. Groves, a 
member of the University of Dublin, who in 
the course of his academical studies had ar 
rived at this conclusion. But from whom 
soever the suggestion first proceeded, it was 
at all events generally adopted, and became a 
distinguishing feature of the assemblies of the 
Brethren. For a time, however, the members 
of these assemblies did not withdraw from the 
communities to which they had originally 
belonged, but continued to frequent their 
churches or chapels : indeed we read of their 
assemblies being held at an early hour on 
Sundays, in order that those who wished 
might attend the service at the parish church. 
So far, then, the meetings of the Brethren had 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 13 

been rather subsidiary than opposed to exist 
ing agencies, but a change in this respect was 
at hand. From the first there had been those 
among them, who had advocated entire sepa 
ration from all other communities as the only 
true way of promoting the unity they all 
desired to see, and before long one of these, 
the late Mr. J. N. Darby, gained sufficient in 
fluence to effect this purpose. Mr. Darby had 
been a clergyman of the Church, and had served 
for some time in an Irish curacy. He had passed 
through other phases of belief, and had at one 
time been strongly attached to the Church's 
system, but at last he arrived at a conviction 
that all existing communities were hopelessly 
corrupt, and that it was the duty of those 
who desired the unity of the spirit to come 
out from among them and be separate. 
Hence it happened, that those quiet gather 
ings for prayer and meditation, which had at 
first been set on foot as helps in the spiritual 
life, came to be regarded by Mr. Darby and 
his followers as the only assemblies which 
were secure of the Divine Presence and 



14 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING- 

favour, the only sure rally ing-point for a 
divided Christendom. But this complete 
change in the position of these assemblies 
was not allowed to pass without a protest. 
Mr. A. N. Groves, who as we have seen had 
heartily sympathised with the movement in 
its beginnings, remonstrated with Mr. Darby, 
and warned him, and those who sided with 
him, that they might expect to see the same 
evils, of which they had complained in other 
societies, springing up among themselves. 

Meanwhile the movement we are describing 
had been making rapid progress, and had 
found a home in many parts of England. At 
Plymouth and at Teignmouth, and in various 
other places, similar societies had arisen. 
The society at Plymouth calls for especial 
attention, both because it eventually gave its 
name to the movement, and because certain 
events which happened there had a consider 
able effect upon its after history. The most 
prominent member of this society was Mr. 
Benjamin W. Newton, a man of piety and 
high attainments, who had received English 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 15 

Orders, and been Fellow of Exeter College, 
Oxford. He rapidly attained great influence 
with the Brethren at this centre, and under 
him a vast amount of evangelistic work was 
done in Plymouth and the neighbourhood. 
He did not adopt in its full extent the prin 
ciple of "open ministry," which was charac 
teristic of the Brethren, but exercised a kind 
of presidency himself, by way of preserving 
order and securing edification. 

In 1845 a serious dispute arose between 
him and Mr. Darby, who was at that time 
residing at Plymouth. The Brethren, both 
here and elsewhere, were eager students of 
prophecy, and a difference of opinion as to 
our Lord's second coming seems to have sown 
the seeds of discord between the two leaders. 
Mr. Darby had put forth the idea that the 
coming of Our Lord for the Saints would be 
secret, whereas His appearing to judge the 
world would be seen by all. Mr. Newton pro 
tested against these and other views, which 
were gaining ground among the Brethren, 
but it is quite clear from the various accounts 



16 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

of the controversy which have been pre 
served, that the main cause of the rupture 
was the presidency exercised by Mr. Newton 
in the assembly. This was stigmatised as 
clericalism, and was regarded as a departure 
from the principles of the society, and even as 
a denial of the authority of the Holy Ghost. 
Accordingly Mr. Darby seceded, with about one 
hundred followers, and held his meeting in 
another part of Plymouth. Two years after 
this Mr. Newton was accused of heresy, on 
account of some statements put forth by him 
with respect to our Lord's sufferings and 
death. He had undoubtedly indulged in 
unauthorised speculations, and had used ex 
pressions calculated to mislead, but he after 
wards candidly acknowledged himself to have 
been mistaken in one of his statements, and 
withdrew the rest for further consideration. 
His opponents however were not satisfied, the 
controversy spread, and a large number of the 
Brethren in every part of the country with 
drew from communion with him. 

It has been already mentioned that in the 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHKEN. 17 

early days of the movement, there was a 
society of the Brethren at Teignmouth. In 
the year 1832 those who met at that centre 
had removed to Bristol, where a chapel called 
Bethesda had been purchased for them, and 
here, under the leadership of Mr. Miiller 
and Mr. Craik, they carried on their work. 
In 1848 the Bristol Brethren received to the 
Lord's Table four of Mr. Newton's friends 
who had remained in communion with him, 
not as sympathising with the views ascribed 
to him, but as denying that he held the doc 
trines laid to his charge 1 . This step was de 
nounced by Mr. Darby, who refused to hold 
further intercourse with Bethesda, unless in 
deed the brethren who met there agreed to 
investigate Mr. Newton's views publicly and 
collectively, and publicly and collectively to 
condemn them. Though far from sympa 
thising with those views, or rather distinctly 
repudiating them, the Bristol Brethren did 
not feel called upon to act publicly as judges 
in the matter, and they published a letter, in 

1 Darby ism, p. 29. 

o 



18 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

which they gave their reasons for the course 
they had seen fit to pursue. The result was 
that they were accused of indifference to 
blasphemy against Christ, and were publicly 
excommunicated by Mr. Darby, while the 
same sentence was pronounced upon all as 
semblies throughout the country who sided 
with them l . 

Henceforth the Brethren parted into two 
hostile camps. The followers of Messrs. 
Miiller and Craik, under the name of Open 
Brethren, adhered to the principles which had 
animated the movement in its earliest days, 
holding communion with the members of 
other religious bodies, and maintaining the 
mutual independence of the different assem 
blies of the Brethren. They have no special 
form of ecclesiastical organisation. In mat- 

1 The history of this controversy may be found in the 
following works : Mr. Darby's "Narrative of Facts," pub 
lished in his collected works ; " The whole case of Plymouth 
and Bethesda," by W. Trotter ; and "The Brethren, their 
Origin, Progress, and Testimony," by Andrew Miller. On 
the other side of the controversy the chief witnesses are 
"Five Letters," by the late Dr. Tregelles ; and " Darbyism, 
its Kise, Progress, and Development," by Henry Groves. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 19 

ters of doctrine they are many of them fol 
lowers of Mr. Darby, though there is no one 
teacher whose authority is paramount among 
them. 

Mr. Darby's followers, on the other hand, 
who now became known as Darbyites, or the 
Exclusive Brethren, have adopted the mosb 
rigid ideas of discipline. They are a very 
numerous, well-organised, and influential body. 
They have produced a large number of writers, 
by whose works the principles of Brethrenism 
have been disseminated far and wide. They 
maintain their separation from the Church 
and other religious bodies, though they are 
willing to receive individuals from among 
them to the Lord's Table. This privilege 
however is in no case extended to even " the 
most godly saint of a Bethesda gathering." 
They do a large amount of evangelistic work 
both by their preaching and by their writings, 
but their main endeavour seems to be to 
make proselytes from among the best mem 
bers of other communities. It is their avowed 
object to get hold of " the saints in the 
c 2 



20 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

different systems, and to teach them to own 
and act upon the true principles of the as 
sembly of God V It is with the investigation 
of their teaching that the following pages are 
chiefly concerned. 

In the year 1866 a division arose in the 
ranks of the Darbyites. Mr. Darby had for 
some time been putting forth speculations as 
to our Saviour's sufferings, bearing a very 
close resemblance to those which had been 
so strongly condemned in Mr. Newton a few 
years before. Our Lord was now said to 
have undergone a portion of His sufferings 
in sympathy by anticipation with a Jewish 
remnant, who are to arise in the latter day, 
and on whom are to fall the judgments which 
the nation had entailed on itself by its re 
jection of Him. This class of sufferings Mr. 
Darby regarded as "non-atoning"; in endur 
ing them our Lord was said to have passed 
through all the experiences of a penitent 
sinner ! Mr. Darby indeed admitted that this 
theory finds no support in the New Testa- 

1 Mackintosh's "Assembly of God," pp. 24, 25. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 21 

ment. It is really founded on a perfectly 
arbitrary interpretation of certain passages in 
the Psalms 1 . It was asserted, moreover, that 
these non-atoning sufferings were endured by 
our Saviour during the first three hours of 
His Crucifixion, the atoning sufferings occu 
pying the last three hours ; and it was further 
maintained that the atonement was completed 
before our Saviour died, and that the act of 
death was simply the giving up a soul that 
had already overcome death into His Father's 
hands. Against this unfounded and most 
erroneous teaching a strong protest was 
raised by some of Mr. Darby's own followers, 
and Mr. W. H. Dorman, Captain Percy Hall, 
and many others withdrew from communion 
with him 2 . He was supported however by a 
large number of those who had hitherto fol 
lowed him, and the erroneous teaching just 

1 See Mr. Darby's pamphlet on the " Sufferings of Christ," 
reprinted from the Bible Treasury of 1858-1859. 

2 An account of this controversy may be gathered from 
Mr. W. H. Dorman's pamphlet " The close of twenty-eight 
years' association with J. N. D." ; and from "Darbyism, its 
Rise, Progress, and Development," by Henry Groves, ch. vii, 
as well as from Mr. Darby's own writings. 



22 HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 

described continues to this hour to find ad 
vocates among them. 

In the following pages the attention of the 
reader will be directed to the teaching of the 
Brethren : I. As to the Church, in Chapters 
II and III ; 2. As to the relations of the indi 
vidual Christian with God, Chapters IV VI ; 
and with the world, Chapter VII, while Chap 
ter VIII will be devoted to an examination 
of their views on Prophecy. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE CHUKCH. 

THE reader will have gathered from the 
preceding chapter some idea of the teaching 
of the Brethren ; but for a full understanding 
of their position it will be necessary to enter 
somewhat more into detail. And first as to 
their view of the Church. The Church, they 
assert, strictly so called, had no existence 
before Pentecost. It could not come into 
being till the offering of that great sacrifice 
which was to gather together in one the scat 
tered children of God, or till the Spirit of 
grace had descended to perpetuate and apply 
its results among the successive generations 
of mankind. The presence of that Spirit 
became thenceforth the distinguishing charac 
teristic of the Church, elevating her not only 
above all worldly societies, but above even the 
sacred society of God's people Israel, which 



24 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

for so many ages past had prefigured her 
and prepared her way. On the due recog 
nition of that Presence depended her very 
existence as a society, and the spiritual wel 
fare of her individual children; on that re 
cognition depended the efficiency of the great 
system of organisation which all agree was 
to be found in the Church in the Apostolic 



So far indeed the teaching of the Brethren 
does not differ from that of the Church her 
self, and is fully borne out by the most 
express testimonies of the New Testament 1 . 
But here we are met by the astounding as 
sertion that this sacred society, so divine in 
its origin, so well provided with all that was 
necessary to preserve it from age to age, is in 
a state of hopeless irremediable corruption. It 
is not merely that false teaching has overlaid 
her doctrines, or schisms impaired her unity ; 
it is not merely that the great mass of her 
children fall far short of their position and 
privileges, but these and other evils are held 

1 See S. Matt. xi. 1 1 ; S. John vii. 39 ; Hebr. xi. 40. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHREN. 25 

to have abounded in her to such an extent as 
to deprive her altogether as a society of the 
character stamped upon her at the beginning, 
and to bring upon her, at God's hands, the 
sentence of an irrevocable doom. Any at 
tempt to restore her involves deliberate oppo 
sition to the Divine decree which demands 
her extirpation. The continuance of God's 
goodness to her was suspended from the 
beginning upon the condition of her continu 
ance in His goodness ; that condition, the 
Brethren say, has not been fulfilled, therefore 
her doom is sealed. Nor is this state of ruin 
and condemnation regarded by them as pecu 
liar to these latter days. It has existed in a 
measure from the beginning. We see traces 
,of it in the Apostolic age, and in two genera 
tions later it had already assumed that hope 
less and irremediable character which has 
continued to this day. Nor is this complete 
breakdown of a society of Divine origin re 
garded by the Brethren as a matter of sur 
prise. On the contrary, the analogy of former 
dispensations would lead us to expect it. 



26 THE HISTOEY AND TEACHING 

All alike had broken down, not after some 
long period of trial, but from the very com 
mencement, and in no case had they been 
restored, but simply, after much endurance, 
replaced. When we enquire further into the 
causes which have led to this deplorable 
result in the case of the Christian Church, we 
are told that it arises first from the admission 
of the world into her pale. It was never 
intended, the Brethren say, that the Church 
should contain a mixture of good and evil. 
It was of course possible that from time to 
time a hypocrite or an unbeliever would find 
his way into the Divine society, but the busi 
ness of the society would be to detect and to 
expel him ; and in proportion as she failed in 
doing this, she would forfeit her character as 
the witness and representative of Christ on 
earth. Now however that evil had not only 
effected a lodgment in the Church, but had 
from time to time been exalted to a position 
of authority, all traces of her divine original 
were obliterated ; she had now l " through 

1 Mackintosh's "Assembly of God," p. 15. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 27 

Satan's crafty working, become "a corrupt 
mass," " an apostasy hastening to its final con 
summation, instead of a Church or dispensa 
tion which God is sustaining through His 
faithfulness of grace 1 ." 

But there is another cause assigned by the 
Brethren for the failure of the Church which 
demands our especial attention, because their 
opinions on this point have had no small 
influence in determining the position they 
have seen fit to assume. " The crowning sin 
of Christendom," then, according to them, 
consists in the existence and operation of an 
ordained ministry. It is of course admitted, 
as indeed it cannot be denied, that there was 
a ministry appointed by the Apostles, but 
this they tell us belonged to the Church only 
while it was among the Jews, it was an 
earthly element in her constitution, and was 
intended to pass away when the Jews had 
finally rejected the Gospel, and the full 
spiritual character of the Church developed 

1 Darby on the Apostasy of the successive Dispensations. 
Collected Works, vol. i. p. 140. 



28 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

itself under the teaching of St. Paul. That 
Apostle, Mr. Darby tells us, is to be regarded 
as the type of the dispensation which he re 
presented ; as he received his Apostolic com 
mission "not of men nor by men, but by 
Jesus Christ and God the Father," so in the 
system introduced by Him " the Apostolic 
succession " was to be broken through \ the 
ministers of the Church were to be chosen by 
the immediate agency of the Holy Ghost, no 
human choice concurring, no human ordina 
tion witnessing to the authoritative act of the 
Divine Spirit. Consequently they tell us the 
whole Church, from the Apostolic age till the 
present time, by preserving the ministerial 
succession has been opposing the purposes of 
the Most High, encroaching on the jurisdic 
tion of the Holy Ghost, and so, as far as 
human power can do so, hampering His work 
among the sons of men. 

Nor has the practical working of this un 
authorised system, according to the Brethren, 
done anything to redeem the sinfulness of 

1 " Character of Office in the Present Dispensation," p. 19. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 29 

its origin. It has not tended to the benefit of 
the Church, and bears with it as an institu 
tion no sign of the blessing of the Most High. 
Individual cases may of course be cited where 
clergymen have done good, but this has been 
the fruit of their individual piety, not of 
the office they bore. As a body the clergy, 
Mr. Darby tells us, have been in every gene 
ration the great opponents of the work of 
God. They have condemned and stigmatised 
as schismatical every effort to promote that 
work, which has not emanated from themselves, 
and thus have acted the part of those who, 
when our Saviour was on earth, ascribed His 
miracles to Satan. A further argument 
against the Christian ministry is founded on 
the fact, that it is the means of preserving 
the dispensation and handing it on from age 
to age. The dispensation, say the Brethren, 
has failed; the kingdom of heaven has be 
come an apostasy; whatever therefore tends 
to preserve the dispensation tends to preserve 
the apostasy, to maintain in existence an in 
stitution, against which the Divine sentence 



30 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

has been already pronounced, and on which 
before long the Divine judgments will surely 
fall. Now, before proceeding to examine the 
directions the Brethren give as to the con 
duct of the Faithful amid this sad scene of 
apostasy and ruin, it will be well to enquire 
whether the terrible indictment which they 
bring against the whole Catholic Church of 
Christ can be sustained. 

I. Is there any ground for supposing that 
the Church, while militant here on earth, was 
to contain the righteous only ? So far is this 
from being the case, that the very opposite is 
asserted again and again both by our Lord 
and His Apostles. In our Lord's description 
of the kingdom of heaven in the thirteenth 
chapter of St. Matthew, tares are sown in the 
midst of the wheat, the children of the wicked 
one are introduced by Satan among the chil 
dren of the kingdom 1 , and instead of the evil 

1 When the Brethren argue, that because " the field is the 
world," the statement of the parable as to the mingling of 
good and evil does not refer to the Church, they are over 
looking the fact, that it is in the midst of the wheat that the 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHKEN. 31 

being at once judged and expelled, we are 
expressly told that both are to grow together 
until the harvest, and that the final separa 
tion between them is to be the work of the 
Angels at the end of the world. In the last 
of these parables the same truth is taught 
under a different figure. The draw-net encloses 
bad fish as well as good, and it is not till the 
net is full and drawn to shore that the bad 
are cast away. Moreover, it may be noticed, 
that our Lord's explanation of the former of 
these parables refutes by anticipation the 
assumption of the Brethren that the kingdom 
has failed. At the end of the world, He says, 
the Son of Man shall send forth His Angels, 
and they shall gather out of His kingdom all 
things that offend, and them that do iniquity. 
Here we are taught first that the kingdom 
would contain bad and good. Secondly, that 
the kingdom thus consisting of bad and good 
would last to the end. Thirdly, that at the 
end, the kingdom, instead of being judged 

tares are sown, and that the things that offend and those who 
do iniquity are gathered " out of the kingdom." 



32 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

and cast out, as the Brethren declare, would 
simply be purged of all things that offend, 
and of those who do iniquity. The same 
truth reappears under another form in the 
Parable of the Marriage of the King's Son, 
where, after the royal invitation has been re 
jected by those to whom it was first sent, the 
servants of the householder gathered together 
as many as they found, both bad and good. It 
is true we have here an instance in which the 
evil was judged and expelled ; but that did 
not take place till the king came in to see 
the guests. 

Nor did our Lord merely declare that evil 
would find its way into the Church. He pre 
pared His disciples for a terrible growth and 
development of that evil, and foretold its 
disastrous effects upon those who once served 
Him faithfully, " because," He says, " iniquity 
shall abound, the love of the many shall wax 
cold." In precisely the same way we find 
St. Paul, in his address to the clergy of the 
Church of Ephesus, anticipating the growth 
of evil among them. " I know that after 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 33 

my departure grievous wolves shall enter in 
among you, not sparing the flock, and also of 
your own selves shall men arise speaking per 
verse things to draw away the disciples after 
them." We have, moreover, the united testi 
mony of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. John, and St. 
Jude, as to the upgrowth of yet greater evils 
in the latter days, and yet not one word is 
said by any one of them to imply that the 
dispensation would fail, that the Divine charter 
of the Church would be cancelled, or the 
Presence of Christ be withdrawn from the 
work of His hands. 

If, now, from the prophecy, we turn for a 
moment to the history of the New Testament, 
we see additional proofs of the fact we have 
been considering. The Epistles to the Corin 
thians, Galatians, and Colossians, bear the 
most emphatic testimony to the existence of 
grave evils both moral and spiritual in the 
Church, yet is it never asserted or implied, 
that the presence of those evils had deprived 
the societies, in which they were found, of their 
position as branches of the Church of Christ. 
D 



34 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

But it is perhaps in the Epistles to the seven 
Churches of Asia that we may find the most 
striking witness of all. For there we have 
the Son of God turning the light of His own 
perfect knowledge upon the secret condition 
of these Churches, and displaying it to them 
and to us. In five of these Churches evils of 
a terrible kind are found ; two are threatened 
with extirpation unless they repent ; one has 
only a few who have not defiled their gar 
ments; and even in the faithful Churches 
of Smyrna and Philadelphia the presence of 
some false teachers is distinctly recognised. 
Yet with all these evils the merciful Head of 
the Church does not cast them off; He still 
addresses them as Churches, calls on them to 
repent and give heed to the Spirit's voice, and 
meanwhile continues to hold the seven stars 
in His right hand, and to walk in the midst 
of the seven golden candlesticks. It is of 
course fully admitted that evils may so 
abound as to cause the ruin of particular 
Churches. The testimony of Scripture and of 
history unite in confirming this sad truth, 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHE^N. 35 

but still it is quite clear from the Scriptures 
above cited, and from many others, that this is 
not and never will be the case with the dispen 
sation at large, that " though the providence 
of God doth suffer many particular Churches 
to cease, yet the promise of the same God will 
never permit that all of them at once shall 
perish." (Bp. Pearson on the Creed, Art. ix.) 

II. If now we turn to the second cause to 
which the Brethren ascribe the alleged ruin 
of the Church, viz. the existence and opera 
tion of an ordained ministry, we find their 
teaching on this point also equally without 
foundation in Scripture. The distinction 
they draw between St. Paul and the other 
Apostles cannot be sustained. The fact that 
he received the Apostolic commission directly 
from the lips of our Lord Himself, instead of 
distinguishing him from them, does but serve 
to place him, as nothing else could have 
placed him, on a level with them. "Am I 
not an Apostle ? Have I not seen Jesus 
Christ our Lord 1 ?" And when we compare 

1 i Cor. ix. I. 

D a 



36 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

their respective histories we find a remark 
able resemblance between them in their acts, 
in their teaching, and in their methods. 
Indeed it would seem to have been one 
object of the writer of the Acts of the 
Apostles to draw a parallel between St. Paul 
and St. Peter l . Both restore to perfect sound 
ness a man who had been lame from his 
birth ; both restore to life one who had passed 
into the world of spirits ; both confound 
the devices of a sorcerer, and destroy his in 
fluence with those he was about to mislead ; 
both were miraculously delivered from prison. 
If the shadow of St. Peter is used by God as a 
means of healing the sick, we find diseases 
cured and evil spirits driven out by the use 
of napkins and aprons brought from the body 
of St. Paul. Each Apostle begins his ministry 
among the Jews ; each is led by a vision 
from God to open the door of faith to the 
Gentiles; each declares to Jew and Gentile 

1 Compare Acts iii. 2 with Acts xiv. 8 ; Acts ix. 40 with 
Acts xx. 9, 10 ; Acts viii. 20 with Acts xiii. 9, 10 ; Acts 
v. 19 with Acts xvi. 26 ; Acts v. 15 with Acts xix. n, 12. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 37 

that forgiveness of sins is secured through 
Jesus Christ to all who believe 1 . In St. Paul's 
address to the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia we 
may notice a recurrence to some of the same 
arguments which had been employed by St. 
Peter in his Pentecostal Sermon. In St. Peter's 
address to the Gentile Cornelius, we find that 
same declaration of Divine impartiality 2 which 
was in after days so emphatically repeated 
by St. Paul, the same reference to our blessed 
Lord as the Judge of mankind which finds a 
place in the speech of St. Paul at Athens. 
But we need not pursue this portion of the 
parallel further. Enough has been said to 
show the groundlessness of Mr. Darby's 
strange idea, that St. Paul is to be regarded 
as the founder of a new dispensation of a 
more heavenly character than that which had 
grown up in Jerusalem under "the twelve 
Jewish Apostles." And if from his teaching 
we turn to the methods of St. Paul in carrying 
out his work, we find the same resemblance 

1 Compare Acts x. 10 with Acts xxii. 21. 
' 2 Compare Acts x. 34 with Romans ii. 1 1 . 



38 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

still maintained. If there are elders and 
deacons serving under the twelve in the 
Church at Jerusalem, we find elders and 
deacons also in the Churches founded by 
St. Paul. Nay, the Apostle, so far from ex 
pecting that all the ministers of Christ would 
have a miraculous call like his own, or would 
owe their appointment to the immediate act 
of the Holy Ghost without any human agency, 
was in the habit of himself appointing elders 
in every Church, and frequent allusions to 
these and other Church officers are to be 
found scattered up and down his Epistles. 
In some of the latest of them in particular, 
namely those addressed to Timothy and Titus, 
to whom the Apostle had given jurisdiction 
over the Churches of Ephesus and Crete 
respectively, we find detailed regulations 
as to the character and qualifications re 
quired in those who would be admitted to 
these offices. Nay, Titus was left in Crete 
for the very purpose of appointing elders in 
every city, while the exhortation to lay 
hands suddenly on no man, to commit 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 39 

the charge which he had himself received to 
faithful men, who should be able to teach 
others also, is a proof that the same power 
was conferred on Timothy. Thus do we find 
the Apostle not only instituting these orders 
in the Churches which he founded, but also 
providing for their continuance. Nor are we 
to suppose because the elders of the Apostolic 
Churches received their orders through a 
human channel, that the source from which 
they came was other than divine. On the 
contrary, the elders of the Church of Ephesus 
are reminded by the Apostle that the Holy 
Ghost had made them overseers in the flock, 
and in the Epistle addressed to that Church 
at a later period all the various offices be 
longing to the Christian ministry, the lowest 
as well as the highest, are traced up to those 
gifts unto men which Her ascended Head 
poured forth upon His Church. 

But here the Brethren tell us that they do 
not deny the power of the Apostle, or of those 
immediately commissioned by him, to ordain 
men to these offices, they only deny the 



40 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

power of subsequent generations to continue 
them. In other words, they maintain that 
a system of Church organisation confessedly 
established by the Apostles, witnessed to by 
their writings, and for the continuance of 
which they had provided, was meant to col 
lapse entirely in the third generation, and to 
be succeeded by another system utterly un 
like it. But we are entitled on their own 
principles to enquire what Scriptural warrant 
they have for this extraordinary statement, 
and if no Scriptural warrant can be produced 
for this radical change in the Church's consti 
tution, we are again, on their own principles, 
driven to the conclusion that no such change 
was intended to take place. 

Scripture, indeed, is far from countenancing 
any such idea. On the contrary it assumes, 
that those to whom Christ committed the 
task of evangelising the nations would, in 
the persons of their representatives, continue 
the work till the end of the world. Nay, 
it distinctly asserts by the mouth of St. Paul 
himself, that the ministry which received 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 41 

Christ's gifts at Pentecost would continue 
their appointed labours "till all Christ's 
faithful followers should come in the unity 
of the faith, and of the knowledge of the 
Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the 
measure of the stature of the fulness of 
Christ," (Ephesians iv. 11-13.) 

It is clear, then, from the above considera 
tions that instead of being opposed to the 
" successional arrangement " which prevailed 
at Jerusalem, St. Paul adopted it in those 
portions of the Church which were committed 
to his care. It evidently never occurred to him 
that in doing so he was founding an organ 
isation which would eventually prove the ruin 
of the dispensation, and that an attempt to 
continue from age to age the system which 
he had begun would constitute in after days 
" the crowning sin of Christendom." St. Paul 
of course was perfectly aware of the evils 
which would arise, if those who had re 
ceived this ministry proved unfaithful either 
in doctrine or in life; nay, himself, as we 
have seen, warns the Ephesian elders that 



42 HISTOBY OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHKEN. 

from their own ranks 1 false teachers would 
arise, but he seeks to forestall those evils, not 
by abolishing the ministry he had instituted, 
and introducing in its room another system, 
but simply by urging on its present represen 
tatives the zealous pursuit of their ministerial 
duties, a careful remembrance of his warnings 
and example, and then by commending them 
to God and the word of His grace (Acts xx. 
29-32). 

1 l vfjLcav avrcuv, Acts XX. 30. 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE RESOURCE OF THE FAITHFUL AMID 
THE RUIN OF THE CHURCH. 

WE have next to consider the course pre 
scribed by the Brethren to all those who 
are sensible of the ruined fallen state of 
Christendom. 

The first step that they insist on is entire 
separation from the Church and all other 
Christian societies. This is of course a neces 
sary consequence of the view they take of 
the state of those societies. The arguments 
against separation, which may be fairly urged 
in dealing with the members of other sects, 
have no place here. If universal Christendom 
is in a state of utter condemnation, if the 
fires of divine wrath are destined shortly to 
consume it 3 separation becomes not only law 
ful but necessary. It is worse than useless, it 
is sinful to remain in a society, which lies 



44 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

under a Divine sentence, and accordingly the 
very first requisition of the Brethren is "Come 
out from among them, and be ye separate." 
It is admitted, indeed, that individuals who 
abide in "the ruin" may be saved at last, 
but by " touching the unclean thing " they 
deprive themselves of the fulness of Gospel 
privileges, and especially of that great bless 
ing of visible unity which Christendom at 
large has forfeited for ever. 

But separation of itself is not enough, it 
has in it no uniting power. Some positive 
principle is needed to secure the cohesion of 
those who have withdrawn from the corrupt 
mass. Accordingly, the Brethren fall back 
on certain truths fully recognised by the 
Church, and seek in separation from her for 
that which might have been sought and found 
in union with her. " Christ," they say, with 
perfect truth, " is the true centre of unity. He 
is the Object of the Divine Counsel, the 
manifestation of God Himself, the one only 
vessel of mediatorial power entitled to unite 
the Church as its Redeemer, its Head, its 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 45 

glory, its life/' But further we need, they 
say, not merely a centre of unity round which 
to gather, but also a power to gather us to 
that centre; and this power they find truly 
enough in the Holy Ghost. "He has come 
down from Heaven," they say, "to separate 
a peculiar people out of the world to Christ, 
and to dwell amongst them, God thus dwell 
ing and walking in them." In making these 
statements the Brethren are but echoing the 
voice of Universal Christendom, for no truths 
have obtained more general recognition than 
those just named. 

But having abandoned the divinely con 
stituted society in which the expression of 
these truths has ever been found by those 
who sought it, they are obliged to seek for 
their realisation by a method of their own: 
casting aside every form of ecclesiastical 
organisation, whether instituted by God, or 
invented by man, they profess to meet in the 
power of the Holy Ghost round the person of 
Christ, and thus to worship and hold com 
munion with the Father. In the assembly, 



46 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 



when gathered on these principles, and for 
this purpose, the Holy Ghost is said to pre 
side. He is the true representative of Christ, 
the sole teacher of spiritual truth, the sole 
dispenser of the instruction, comfort, and 
warning, which the assembly may require, 
and He knows, as none else can know, the 
personal needs of those who meet there. To 
Him therefore belongs the work of supplying 
those needs. It is a profane encroachment 
upon this His Office, according to the Brethren, 
to appoint a man to do these things. It is 
profane to appoint a man to keep order in 
such assemblies, for the assembly is the House 
of God, and God must be trusted to keep 
order in His own house 1 . When we first 
read sentiments such as these, we are natur 
ally led to suppose that the Brethren intend 
to dispense with human agency altogether. 
But this is far from being the case. What 
they mean is, that the Holy Ghost is to select 

1 " The Assembly of God," p. 27 : "To set up a man to keep 
order in G-od's assembly is sheer unbelief, and an open insult 
to the Divine Presence." 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 47 

each time the assembly meets the person or 
persons by whom He wills to convey the 
necessary instruction. All indeed have in 
theory an equal right to minister, but practi 
cally this right is limited by the guiding 
will of the Spirit. But how is that will to 
be known 1 ? Chiefly by the gifts which the 
different Brethren possess. The power to 
exhort, to warn, to console, to expound, are 
regarded as so many distinct gifts of the 
Spirit. Wherever any of these gifts is found, 
the possessor is bound to use them for the 
benefit of the assembled brethren, and the 
assembly, on the other hand, is bound to 
recognise them. The presence of the gift is 
one sure mark at least of the will of the 
Spirit. Still, a further practical difficulty re 
mains ; who is to decide whether this or that 
brother possesses the requisite gift? It will 
scarcely do to let him decide himself, for 
there are few subjects on which men are 
more liable to be deceived than as to their 
possession of such powers as these; indeed, 
the results which have sometimes followed, 



48 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

when the experiment has been tried, have 
not been such as to justify the trial. Con 
sequently, as a general rule, when any 
difficulty arises, the decision of the matter is 
left with the assembly. By its collective 
voice the will of the Spirit, who presides 
therein, is supposed to be known, and thus, 
though the assembly does practically in these 
cases elect its own ministers for the time 
being, the election is regarded as not man's 
but God's 1 . 

But instruction is neither the only nor the 
chief purpose for which the assembly comes 
together. Its main object is worship, and its 
central act is the breaking of bread. The 
conversion of sinners is a work with which 
the assembly, when convened, has nothing to 
do. Those who meet there are supposed to 
have been already converted, and to have 
simply to maintain the relations with God 
and with each other into which they have 
entered. As regards worship, the Brethren 

1 Kelly's six lectures on " Fundamental Truths connected 
with the Church of God," Lect. iii. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BEETHEEN. 49 

observe the same principle which regulates 
their ministry, viz. that no human president 
is to be appointed. The Holy Spirit, in this 
case as in that, is supposed to select those 
who shall lead. " The essential thing," says 
Mr. Kelly 1 , "is this, that there be perfect 
openness for the Spirit's action by whom He 
is pleased to speak. It is not a question of 
one man or of half-a-dozen. On some occa 
sions the Holy Ghost might use one or two, 
on others more than six, in various ways. 
What Scripture demands is that there be 
faith in the Spirit's presence, proved by leaving 
Him His due right to employ as it may please 
Him." 

The Brethren lay great stress on the Lord's 
Supper as an essential part of the worship of 
the assembly partly as a symbol of Chris 
tian union, partly as an appointed means of 
showing the Lord's death. " Beware," says 
Mr. Kelly 2 , "of thinking anything can be of 
equal moment with duly showing forth the 



1 Kelly's six lectures, Lect. iv. p. 144. 
3 Ibid. Lect. iv. p. 150. 






50 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

Lord's death. The Supper of the Lord claims 
an unequivocal prominence in the worship of 
the Saints." They insist on a weekly cele 
bration of this high ordinance, grounding 
their practice on the statement of Acts xx. 7. 
"It is the resurrection day," says Mr. Kelly 1 , 
" not the day of His death . . He is risen, and 
therefore with grateful solemn joy we take the 
Supper on that day which speaks of His rising 
power." Again, "The all-important thing is 
that the Lord's Supper should be the governing 
thought, when the Saints are gathered for this 
purpose on the Lord's Day." Nor do they 
allow the members of their society under any 
pretence to neglect this ordinance. " There is 
no excuse for absenting yourself from the 
Lord's Table." "He who abstains from the 
Lord's Supper virtually says he is none of 
His." 

Further, the assembly is under the strictest 
discipline. Any allowance of evil, whether 
of doctrine or life, if persevered in after re 
monstrance, is judged and condemned, and 

1 Kelly's six lectures, Lect. iii. p. 144. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 51 

the author of it expelled from the assembly. 
This is of course a necessary result of their 
distinctive principles. They could not ad 
vocate separation from other religious bodies 
on the ground that those bodies tolerated evil, 
and then tolerate evil themselves. 

It is not supposed, of course, that the assem 
bly is perfect at any time. Some of its members 
may be ignorant, others may have been newly 
received, and may introduce into the assembly 
the effects of the system to which they pre 
viously belonged, and, even among those, 
who have received all their religious training 
among the Brethren, there may be some, we 
are told, who may have " no deep sense of the 
ruin of Christendom," and who may be inclined 
to accept the Brethren's position as a matter 
of course, without any "divine conviction" 
that it is the only true one. But all this 
may be borne with. It does not hinder the 
presence and operation of the Spirit. But 
where a brother has been guilty of error in 
doctrine or viciousness in life, where he has 
refused to submit to the Word of God as that 
E a 



52 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

Word is understood by the Brethren, or to 
recognise the distinctive tenets for which they 
contend, there the course of the assembly is 
clear. It must without hesitation exclude 
the offender. For the toleration of known 
evil "is the direct denial of the Presence of 
the Holy Ghost making them one, and the 
authority of a present Lord." And accord 
ingly, if an assembly declines to take this 
course, if it throws the shield of its protec 
tion over the wrong-doer, it robs itself of its 
true character as God's assembly, and forces 
a painful but highly necessary duty upon its 
faithful members. They must first of all, of 
course, give full testimony to what they be 
lieve to be the truth, they must administer 
due warning to the assembly and to indi 
viduals ; but if all has been in vain, separation 
from that assembly becomes absolutely bind 
ing. Indeed, the duty of withdrawing from an 
assembly of the Brethren which has tolerated 
evil, is regarded as even more imperative 
than that of separating from the ordinary 
ecclesiastical institutions of Christendom, since 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHEEN. 53 

light rejected is worse than original dark 
ness. 

Such, then, are the main characteristics of 
the assemblies of the Brethren; such their 
principles, their methods, their discipline. We 
have next to observe that for these assem 
blies, thus isolated from the whole of Chris 
tendom, thus bereft of all the visible organ 
isation which characterised the Apostolic 
Church, the Brethren claim a right to all 
the promises which were made to that 
Church. Ask them where they find an au 
thority in Scripture for the isolated insti 
tution they have founded, and they refer you 
at once to our Lord's promise to St. Peter in 
St. Matthew xvi. 18, "Upon this rock I will 
build my assembly, and the gates of hell 
shall not prevail against it." Ask them where 
they find the proof in Scripture of the ex 
istence of any such assembly, and the reply 
is The Lord added to the assembly daily 
such as should be saved. And in every pas 
sage in the New Testament where the ex 
pression ecclesia occurs the Brethren see, or 



54 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

think they see, an allusion to the special 
kind of assembly which they have instituted. 
Take the following specimen from Mr. Mackin 
tosh 1 : "In the Gospel our Blessed Lord inti 
mates His purpose of building an assembly. 
This assembly is historically presented to us 
in the Acts of the Apostles. Then, when 
we turn to the Epistles of St. Paul, we find 
him addressing the assembly in seven distinct 
places; and finally, in the opening of the 
Book of Revelation, we have addresses to 
seven distinct assemblies." 

But here a difficulty arises. If the assem 
blies of the Brethren are the only true repre 
sentatives of the primitive Apostolic Church, 
where are we to find a true expression of 
the assembly from the Apostolic age to the 
nineteenth century, seeing that the peculiar 
form which it has taken among the Brethren 
is quite unknown to Church history 1 ? But 
the Brethren are not careful to answer us in 
this matter. "It matters but little to us," they 
tell us, " if ecclesiastical historians have failed 

1 Mackintosh's "Assembly of God," p. n. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 55 

in their interesting researches to discern 
a single trace of the true expression of God's 
assembly from the close of the Apostolic era 
to the beginning of the present century. It 
is quite possible there may have been here 
and there, amid the thick gloom of the Middle 
Ages, 'two or three * really gathered in the 
Name of Jesus, or at least those that sighed 
after the truth of such a thing. But, be this 
as it may, it leaves that truth wholly un 
touched. . . . Although it could be proved that 
for eighteen hundred years there were not 
even two or three gathered in the Name of 
Jesus, that would not in the smallest degree 
affect the question. The word is not ' What 
saith the ecclesiastical historian ? ' but, ' What 
saith the Scripture 1 1 '" 

It is clear, then, that the history of Chris 
tendom for eighteen centuries affords no en 
couragement to the theories of the Brethren, 
or at least none that they think it worth 
their while to avail themselves of. But we 
have seen already there is one point at least 

1 Mackintosh's "Assembly of God," p. 43. 



56 THE HISTOEY AND TEACHING 

on which Scripture and ecclesiastical history 
speak with one voice. Both alike bear wit 
ness to the existence in the ancient Church 
of an order of men, deriving their authority 
from an Apostolic source, whose special work 
it was "to feed the flock of God," "to take 
oversight thereof," " to labour in the word 
and doctrine," " to rule over their brethren," 
"to watch for their souls;" and if this be 
indeed the united testimony of Scripture and 
of history, do not the Brethren, in rejecting 
the latter on this point, oppose themselves 
also to the former 1 ? If Church history tells 
us that these orders remained, if in Scrip 
ture we find provision made for their con 
tinuance, does not the testimony of Scripture 
and of history point once more in the same 
direction ? 

But notwithstanding the weight of the 
Scriptural argument against them, the Bre 
thren still believe themselves to have dis 
covered an authority for their assembly in the 
pages of the New Testament. They fall back 
on the regulations made by St. Paul in the 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 57 

First Epistle to the Corinthians for the public 
exercise of the miraculous gifts. Here, they 
say, we read of no president, no one-man 
ministry. Each is exhorted to use whatever 
gift he possesses for the common good : no 
restriction is laid upon them, save that all 
things are to be done in order, and with a 
view to edification. Accordingly, they as 
sume that we have here the true expression 
of the assembly of God. The organisation con 
fessedly existing in other places was to pass 
away, but this was to remain. But a mo 
ment's consideration will shew how little 
ground they have for such an assumption. 

The regulations laid down in i Cor. xiv 
have reference to a state of things which no 
longer exists. Christians no longer possess 
the miraculous endowments which the Corin 
thians and other early Christians enjoyed ; 
and therefore directions given to regulate the 
exercise of such endowments have no neces 
sary application to us. To assume the per 
petual obligation of rules, which had reference 
to a state of things long passed away, is a 



58 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

course utterly opposed to all sound reasoning ; 
but this is not the only assumption necessary 
to their position. The directions given by 
St. Paul in his Epistles to Timothy and Titus, 
as to the duties of elders and deacons, as well 
as to those belonging to themselves as placed 
in authority over them, have reference to a 
state of things which will last as long as 
the world lasts. The duties, for instance, of 
taking care of the Church of God, of restrain 
ing false teachers, of holding the mystery of 
the faith in a pure conscience, of labouring 
in the word and doctrine, are duties which 
have their place in every generation, and can 
never be neglected without serious damage 
to the Church. The Church officers men 
tioned in these Epistles were set apart to per 
form these duties, and the rules laid down 
therein were meant to secure their efficient 
performance. Now we have already seen that 
the Brethren assume that this elaborate or 
ganisation was to pass away. 

In a word, they assume the permanence 
of a system, which had reference to a state 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 59 

of things which exists no more. They as 
sume the transitoriness of a system adapted 
to a state of things, which exists in every 
age; and on these two absurd and self-con 
tradictory assumptions rests their so-called 
argument from Scripture for the entirely 
modern system they have thought fit to in 
troduce. Surely we can scarcely have a 
stronger argument against their whole posi 
tion, than that with which they themselves 
have furnished us in the expedients to which 
they have been driven in order to justify it. 

While, however, we reject entirely the novel 
system they have introduced, we have no 
desire to pass by unheeded the undoubted 
truths, which they have enshrined in it. 
Their recognition of the Lord's Supper as 
the central act of Christian worship is a 
point in which they are favourably dis- 
tinguised from some other communities. We 
willingly admit, moreover, that far more 
discipline is needed in the Church. Our 
own Church, in the opening sentences of 
her Commination Service, expresses her de- 



60 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

sire for it. We admit also, that more 
scope should be given to those who possess 
high spiritual gifts and graces, to use them 
for the glory of God, and the good of the 
Church. But this principle is expressly ad 
mitted in the second Collect for Good Friday, 
while the continual development of lay agency 
in the Church is giving year by year a more 
emphatic expression to it. Had the Brethren 
simply called our attention to these undoubted 
facts, they would have been doing good ser 
vice. But one great fallacy of Brethrenism 
lies in the assumption, that separation is the 
first step towards the restoration of these 
advantages. If, however, as has been shewn 
in the former chapter, the Church is to abide 
to the end of the world, if the presence of 
the Lord has been expressly promised to her 
ministry for "all the" intervening "days 1 ," 
then it will follow, that whatever blessings 
Christians may require for their individual 
growth in grace, for their corporate unity, or 
for the advancement of Christ's work in the 

1 "Always," "all the days," St. Matth. xxviii. 20. 



OP THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 61 

world, are to be sought for in communion 
with her, not in separation from her. In that 
Church Christ is indeed " the centre to which 
His people are gathered, and the Holy Ghost is 
the power which gathers them to that centre." 
All therefore that Churchmen have to do is to 
make full proof of these their privileges, and 
then all else that is needful for them will, in 
God's good time, be conferred upon them. 



CHAPTER V. 

JUSTIFICATION. 

FEOM the views of the Brethren concerning 
the Church, we must now turn to their teach 
ing as to the relations of the individual with 
God. This part of our enquiry will naturally 
fall under three heads, Justification, Sanctifi- 
cation, and the Christian's Rule of Life. 
These subjects, therefore, will claim our atten 
tion in this and the two following chapters. 
And first, as to Justification. 

I. The Brethren hold, in common with the 
rest of Christendom, that justification, which 
includes pardon and acceptance, is a gift of 
God purchased for man by the meritorious 
Cross and Passion of our Blessed Saviour, 
and conferred by the Spirit of Grace on all 
who believe. These truths are asserted by 
them with an emphasis and an earnestness 
which leaves nothing to be desired; their 



HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHKEN. 63 

frank and unreserved recognition of them 
accounts for much of their influence on the 
religious life of the present day, and if in the 
details of their teaching on this wide subject 
we find some things which we are compelled 
to criticise severely, these main points of 
agreement must never be forgotten. 

II. But further, they have done good ser 
vice in bringing out into a clear strong light 
one aspect of the doctrine of justification, 
which some previous systems had lost sight of, 
viz. the close connection of this great gift with 
the resurrection of our Lord. Believing, as we 
have said, that His sufferings and death are 
the meritorious causes of our justification, 
they hold at the same time that our personal 
possession of this privilege arises from our 
union with Him in resurrection. "We are jus 
tified," they tell us, "in the Kisen Christ 1 ." 
On this point they have been misunderstood 
by some of their opponents, who speak of the 
prominence given by them to the Kesurrection, 

1 See a tract entitled "Justification in the Risen Christ," 
by C. S. Stanley. 



64 THE HISTOBY AND TEACHING 

as though it involved a depreciation of the 
work which was done upon the Cross. The 
following quotations will prove that they are 
in little danger of falling into error on this 
head ; while at the same time they shew the 
exact place assigned by them to the resurrec 
tion in the economy of Redemption. 

One of their writers says, " What the Blood 
of Christ procures, the Resurrection formally 
proclaims on God's part, and we enjoy in 
consequence, and as expressive of this, the 
moral value which attaches to the present 
position of Christ, and of all God's acts to 
wards Him from the Cross onwards ; for such 
is the effect of His having become our Repre 
sentative before God, taking our place that 
He might give us His V And again, " In the 
death of Christ we have passed through the 
judgment of sin, and in His Resurrection we 
have the witness that we are free from it and 
in full acceptance before God 2 ." While Mr. 
Darby says, " The Blood of Christ and not our 

1 "Justification and Acceptance with God," p. 54. 
a Ibid. p. 56. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 65 

sins is before the eyes of God. He esteems 
us as bought with the price of His Blood, but 
the saints are also looked at as risen in 
Christ 1 ." And again, "The Saints are re 
garded by God as risen in Christ, and conse 
quently as perfectly justified from all their 
sins ; but how does the Saint actually now 
participate in blessings so great? It is by 
partaking of that life in the power of which 
Christ has risen . . thus it is I share in the 
righteousness of God, by being quickened 
with that life in the power of which Christ 
was raised from the dead, coming up out of 
the grave, all our trespasses being forgiven 2 ." 
In all this there is nothing which detracts 
from the value or the dignity of the sacrifice 
offered upon the Cross. On the contrary, it 
is but an echo of the teaching of St. Paul, who 
uniformly represents our union with Christ 
dead and risen again as the condition of our 
participation in the blessings purchased for 
us by His Cross and Passion. Indeed the 

1 " The Eesurrection the Fundamental Truth of the Gospel, ' ' 
pp. 6, 7. 2 Ibid. p. 8. 

F 



66 THE HISTOEY AND TEACHING 

last passage quoted from Mr. Darby is little 
more than a paraphrase of Colossians ii. 1 1- 
13, where the Apostle distinctly asserts our 
union with Christ in His Death and Resurrec- 
tion to be the secret of our freedom from 
"the body of the sins of the flesh," and the 
condition of our participation in that pardon 
which was purchased by His sufferings. Again, 
a connection between our justification and 
the Resurrection of our Lord is distinctly 
asserted in the following passages. In Rom. 
iv. 23-25, after dwelling on that faith of 
Abraham in the Divine Promise which was 
counted to him for righteousness or justifica 
tion, the Apostle goes on to declare that the 
like blessing will be bestowed on all who believe 
on Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from 
the dead, "who," the Apostle adds, "was de 
livered for our offences, and raised again for our 
justification 1 ." Here we have justifying faith 
identified with a belief in the Resurrection of 
Jesus Christ, and our justification represented 

1 See alsoEom. viii. 33, 34, "Who is He that condemneth ? 
It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again." 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 67 

as one of the objects for which He rose from 
the dead. While in I Cor. xv. 17 the de 
pendence of our justification on the Resur 
rection as an essential condition is strongly 
asserted in the words, " If Christ be not risen, 
your faith is vain, ye are yet iii your sins," 
i.e. unjustified. 

A remarkable resemblance may be traced 
between the treatises of the Brethren on this 
particular point and some of the writings of 
the Tractarian school ; so much so, that one 
of their critics 1 has not hesitated to assert, 
that they derive their doctrine on this point 
from Dr. Newman. 

This, however, is more than doubtful, but 
we may fairly recognise in the statements of 
both schools evident traces of a reaction 
against the defective teaching which had long 
been popular, and of a genuine desire to bring 
out in a clear strong light a forgotten portion 
of the truth. The evidence-writers of the 
last century had indeed laid great stress upon 

1 See "British Quarterly Eeview" for October 1873, 
p. 409 note. 

F 



68 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

the Resurrection of our Lord, but they had 
regarded it chiefly in its evidential character 
as a proof of His Divine Sonship, of the 
acceptance of His sacrifice, as a fact which, 
once admitted as historically true, destroyed 
all a priori presumption against miracles. 
But while these very important aspects of the 
Resurrection had been brought into great 
prominence, its place in the economy of Re 
demption implied in the words " Risen with 
Christ," " saved by His Life," " the power of 
His Resurrection," had been too often lost 
sight of; nor did the evangelical movement 
do much to restore it to its proper position. 
The main efforts of its representatives were 
directed to the re-assertion of the doctrine of 
the Atonement, and when the Resurrection was 
referred to, it was regarded either in the aspects 
above mentioned, or as a pledge of our own 
resurrection. About fifty years ago, however, 
fresh attention was directed to this Article of 
our faith, and its bearing both on Christian 
privilege and Christian life was strongly in 
sisted on. All the three religious movements 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHREN. 69 

which arose at that period bore traces of this 
reaction. To what school or to what writer 
we are indebted for having raised the question 
it may be difficult to say, but it is at all events 
due to the Brethren to recognise the share they 
have had in reinstating this central truth in 
the position claimed for it by St. Paul. 

III. But there is another portion of our 
Saviour's work on our behalf which bears 
very closely upon our justification, but to 
which the Brethren have certainly not as 
signed its proper position, viz. His obedience 
to the law of God during His earthly life. 
This they declare has nothing to do with our 
justification, which rests solely on His suf 
ferings and death on the Cross. It is evi 
dent to any one who examines their writings 
that their statements on the subject are the 
result of a recoil from the teaching of the Puri 
tan Divines of the seventeenth century, and 
of some of their successors in the present day l . 
A glance at that teaching will therefore be 

See " The Righteousness of God," by J. N. D., pp. 2, 3 ; and 
*' Justification and Acceptance with God," Introduction, p. xi. 



70 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

necessary to enable us to understand the posi 
tion taken up by the Brethren. The Puritan 
Divines had drawn a broad distinction be 
tween forgiveness of sins and justification, re 
presenting the first as consisting simply in the 
rescinding of the sentence of condemnation, 
and the second as involving the restoration of 
the pardoned man to a state of acceptance 
and privilege. Not content, however, with 
drawing this distinction thus broadly, they 
went on to refer these two gifts to different 
portions of the work of Christ on our behalf. 
The forgiveness of our sins they ascribed to 
His sufferings and death on the Cross ; while 
our justification was said to consist in the 
imputation to us of His active righteousness, 
i.e. of His obedience to God's law during 
His earthly life. Against this attempt to 
divide the work of Christ the Brethren have 
raised an emphatic protest. They appeal to 
those passages in the New Testament which 
ascribe our justification to Christ's death. 
They assert that there is not one which 
ascribes it to what the Puritans called His 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 71 

active righteousness apart from His death. 
They appeal to the teaching of the early re 
formers, who identified justification with for 
giveness, and thus, by anticipation, struck at 
the root of that distinction, on which the Puri 
tan teaching is based. They point out, that the 
imputation of righteousness is an expression 
explained by St. Paul himself to signify the 
non-imputation of sin 1 : " David describeth the 
blessedness of the man to whom God imputeth 
righteousness without works, saying, Blessed 
are they whose unrighteousnesses are for 
given, Blessed is the man to whom the Lord 
will not impute sin;" and they infer, that 
St. Paul's language about imputation can never 
be pressed into the service of the system 
they are opposing; and lastly, they protest 2 
against the distinction drawn by the Puritans 
between our Saviour's active and passive 
obedience, as implying a forgetfulness that the 
surrender of His life was entirely voluntary, 
and done as an act of obedience to His Father. 

1 Eomans iv. 6-8. 

2 "Justification and Acceptance with God," p. 21. 



72 THE HISTOEY AND TEACHING 

But, unfortunately, in their eager zeal to over 
throw a system of teaching which seems to 
them to detract from the incommunicable 
glories of the Cross, they have allowed them 
selves to drift into an error in the opposite 
direction, and have not ascribed to our Sa 
viour's obedience to God's law that position 
which is its due. One of them 1 tells us, that 
our Saviour's undertaking the fulfilment of 
the law formed " no integral part of that 
work by which we are saved," and Mr. Darby 2 
gives us one of the arguments on which this 
view is supposed to rest : " If righteousness 
come by law, then Christ is dead in vain. 
But if Christ has fulfilled the law for me, it 
does come by law, and Christ is dead in 
vain." In another part of the same pamphlet 
he quotes Rom. iii. 21, "Now the righteous 
ness of God without law is made manifest," as 
a proof that our Saviour's fulfilment of the 
law has nothing to do with our justification. 
There is no thought, he says 3 , in St. Paul's 

1 "Justification and Acceptance with God," p. 14. 
2 " Kighteousness of God," p. 33. 3 Ibid, p. 9. 



OP THE PLYMOUTH BBETHREN. 73 

doctrine " of a righteousness of law acquired 
by another for us ; " while another writer, dwell 
ing on the same passage, says, " The Apostle 
brings in the question of the righteousness of 
God, contrasting it with law in a way which 
shows that he could have no idea of its being 
accomplished by the fulfilling of the law even 
by Christ Himself." Thus our Blessed Sa 
viour's obedience to the law, while admitted 
as a fact, is allowed little or no place in His 
Redeeming work. But there is more than 
one fallacy underlying the reasoning of the 
Brethren on this point. 

(i) They do not lay sufficient stress upon 
the fact, that our Saviour's fulfilment of the 
law was an essential qualification for the 
work which He did upon the Cross. "He 
was a Lamb without blemish and without 
spot." "He was clearly void of sin both in 
His flesh and in His spirit." He offered to 
God upon the Cross a life which had been 
absolutely, from the beginning, free from even 
a thought or desire at variance with His 
Holy Law, and but for this perfect conformity, 



74 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

this perfect legal righteousness, as the Brethren 
call it, His offering could not have been accept 
able to God or have availed for the justifica 
tion of man. 

(2) They do not seem fully to realise the 
fact, that that Death to which they rightly 
ascribe our justification, was itself in the 
very highest sense a fulfilling of the law. 
Never was the law of God fulfilled by our 
blessed Lord more completely than when He 
became obedient unto death. For then that 
love to God and man, which is the fulfilling of 
the law, received its most perfect and trans 
cendent illustration ; then all those claims of 
God and man, of which the law is the expres 
sion, met with a full and entire satisfaction, 
and, accordingly, the death of Christ is recog 
nised in this as well as in other lights in 
Scripture itself: " Thy law is within My heart" 
are the words in which He Himself announced 
by the mouth of the Psalmist His willingness 
to offer Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the 
world. And therefore, when the Brethren 
attempt to teach us, that our justification is 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 75 

in such a sense apart from law as to be inde 
pendent even of our Saviour's fulfilment of the 
law, they are not merely depriving His daily 
obedience of its proper place in the economy 
of Redemption, they are virtually striking 
against that very truth of which they claim 
to be the special champions. For if the death 
of Christ was indeed a fulfilling of the law, 
and our justification is entirely independent 
of His fulfilling of the law, what is the con 
clusion which follows, but that our justifica 
tion must be entirely independent of His 
death? 

(3) It is perfectly clear from the context 
of the passage quoted above, that when the 
Apostle speaks of righteousness being apart 
from law, he is not excluding the legal obe 
dience of our Saviour, but simply our own 
legal obedience from the work of justification. 
The reason why the law cannot justify man, 
is because man has not kept the law. All 
the world is guilty before God, therefore by 
the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. 
This reasoning of course cannot be applied to 



76 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

our Saviour, who is not guilty before God, 
and has kept the law. 

IV. Further, the Brethren maintain, that the 
gift of justification once received can never be 
finally lost. Once united to Christ we are in no 
further danger of drawing back to perdition : 
whatever sin or failure there may be in our 
course, our salvation is secure. Nay, to such 
an extent do some of them carry their view of 
the indefectibility of justifying grace, that 
they dc not scruple to teach, that a Christian 
ought not to pray for the forgiveness of his 
sins, since such a prayer would imply a doubt 
of the fulness of that mercy which he has 
already received. In a tract entitled " Once 
Purged," one of their writers says, that a 
Christian ought not to speak of himself as a 
guilty sinner, or to ask that his sins may be 
washed in the blood of Jesus. "Is this," he 
says, "the language of a purged worshipper 1 ? 
Surely not. A guilty sinner is not a purged 
worshipper. It may sound like humility, but 
it is the very opposite. True humility can 
only flow from our being in our right position 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 77 

before God." He then proceeds to define the 
right position of a believer as that of " a per 
fectly purged worshipper one who has no 
more conscience of sins one who is as free 
from every charge of guilt and every breath 
of condemnation as Christ" (pp. 2 and 3). And 
again : " Am I to be continually asking God to 
do what He assures me again and again He 
has done 'once' done 'perfectly' done 'for 
ever ' " 1 (p. 5.) This teaching he bases mainly 
on Hebrews x. 2, where it is asserted that the 
worshippers once purged by a perfect sacrifice 
would have no more conscience of sins. 

But a glance at the context will shew that 
the subject chiefly present to the sacred writer's 
mind in this part of his epistle is not forgive 
ness of sin, but offering for sin. In the passage 
more immediately referred to he is proving 
the imperfection of the Levitical offerings 
from the repetition of them. Had they been 
able to make the worshippers perfect, i. e. to 
cleanse their consciences, they need not have 
been repeated, since a single offering would 
have been sufficient to secure that freedom of 



78 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

conscience which is necessary for approaching 
God. Purged by that one offering, they 
would have been purged once for all, so as to 
need no further offering for sin. In v v. 1 2 
14 he points out that the sacrifice of our Lord 
was therefore not repeated, because His one 
offering purchased for His people a full supply 
of all their spiritual needs. Nothing could be 
gained by a second offering, which the first 
had not already secured for those who are 
being sanctified. 

The Brethren in their reasoning on these 
passages confound atonement with forgiveness, 
the offering of the sacrifice with the applica 
tion of it. That atonement was made, that 
sacrifice was offered once for all, but the appli 
cation of it to the individual Christian may 
be repeated according to his needs (i St. John 
ii. i, 2) ; and as there is no Christian who does 
not daily come short of his position and privi 
leges, so there is none who does not need a 
daily application of the benefits of that sacrifice. 
The writer indeed, who has been quoted above, 
admits that a Christian often falls into sin, 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 79 

but he still maintains that he is not to pray 
for pardon. He is to judge him self continually, 
he is to confess his sins, but he is not to ask 
to be forgiven. But (i) by admitting that a 
Christian needs continual cleansing, the writer 
destroys the argument based upon his own 
interpretation of the words "once purged;" 
(3) to confess our sins in reliance on the 
Divine promise of forgiveness and of cleansing 
(i St. John i. 9) is practically to pray for for 
giveness. (3) Our Lord, who won for us the 
right of approaching God and calling Him 
" Our Father," has also taught us to pray, 
" Forgive us our trespasses." 

V. There is one more point in their doctrine 
of justification, in which the Brethren have 
widely diverged from the teaching of Scrip 
ture and of the ancient Church. That union 
with Christ in His Death and Resurrection, 
which has been already spoken of as involv 
ing justification, is closely connected in Apo 
stolic teaching with the Holy Ordinance of 
Baptism l . When a Jew or heathen had heard 

1 Eom. vi. 3, 4; Col. ii. 12. 



80 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 



the tidings of God's wrath against sin, and of 
His abounding mercy for penitent sinners, 
when the Spirit of Grace had wrought within 
his heart "repentance towards God and faith 
towards our Lord Jesus Christ," a further 
step was invariably required of him. The 
conscience-stricken Jews, who on the great 
day of Pentecost listened to St. Peter's sermon, 
and enquired "what shall we do'"? were told 
not only to repent, but also to be baptized in 
the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of 
sins 1 . The deeply penitent Saul of Tarsus, 
after his three days of prayer and fasting, 
was directed " to arise and be baptized and 
wash away his sins 2 ." Here we see remission 
of sins (and justification, as has been seen, if 
not identical with it, is inseparable from it), 
conveyed to those who believe by an ap 
pointed visible sign, while in the Epistle to 
Titus, iii. 5, the very purpose of our admission 
to the bath of regeneration is said to be, " that 
being justified by His grace we might be made 
heirs according to the hope of eternal life." 

1 Acts ii. 38. 2 Acts xxii. 16. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 81 

Accordingly, to one who in penitence and 
faith approached that Holy Sacrament, his 
baptism was at once the instrument and the 
seal of his justification, because it was the 
ordained means of bringing him into union 
with Him, who " of God is made righteous 
ness" to all who believe. Nor was the sig 
nificance or the efficacy of this high ordinance 
one whit diminished, when its grace and 
privilege were extended to those, whom our 
Saviour 1 honoured with so gracious a welcome 
while He was on earth, and to whom He so 
expressly threw open the doors of His king 
dom. The analogy, both of the Patriarchal 
and the Mosaic dispensation, would inevitably 
lead to the conclusion, that God was willing 
to receive infants into covenant with Him. 
The practice among the Jews in our Saviour's 
time, of baptizing the children of proselytes, 
would seem to show that they at least had 
drawn this conclusion; while our Saviour's 
words of loving welcome, and His declaration, 
that of such was the kingdom of God, would 

1 St. Mark x. 14-16. 
G 



82 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

remove all scruple arising from the idea, that 
the blessings of that kingdom were too great 
to be bestowed on such as they. And ac 
cordingly, the Church has ever held that 
baptism to an infant is all that it is to a 
penitent believing adult. To the one as 
to the other it is the "bath of regenera 
tion," the instrument of justification, the out 
ward seal and channel of that heavenly grace, 
which at once blots out our sins, and secures 
for us a definite position of favour and accept 
ance before God. 

Now the Brethren in dealing with this 
question leave the ordinance of baptism com 
pletely out of sight. Indeed, it has in their 
system no settled place whatever; some of 
them have not scrupled to assert that, though 
it formed an integral portion of the " Gospel 
of the kingdom " committed to " the twelve 
Jewish Apostles," it had no recognised place 
in the "Gospel of the Grace of God," which was 
proclaimed by St. Paul, though in this case it 
is rather strange, that our knowledge of the 
nature and efficacy of that Holy Ordinance 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHKEN. 83 

is derived chiefly from St. Paul's writings ; 
others consider it a matter to be settled be 
tween an Evangelist and his convert. Mr. 
Mackintosh in his " Christian Baptism, what is 
it? A Scriptural Inquiry," regards it indeed 
as an ordinance of Christ, binding on all be 
lievers, as a means of acknowledging our re 
lations with the Holy Trinity, as a type of 
our death and resurrection with Christ; but 
while admitting, that it has a great practical 
bearing as a call to newness of life, he does not 
ascribe to it any spiritual efficacy whatever. 
On the subject of Infant Baptism the Brethren 
are not agreed ; some, particularly among the 
earlier members of the society, upheld it, but 
the generality are opposed to it ; and indeed, 
if Baptism is not regarded as the ordained 
means of admission into the privileges of the 
Christian Covenant, it is hard to see on what 
grounds its application to infants can be de 
fended, or what possible good could result 
from it. 

But their refusal to give to Holy Baptism 
its proper position in relation to justification, 
a 2 



84 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

besides being wrong in itself, has had a most 
injurious effect upon their practical teaching. 
For rejecting the ordained "means whereby" 
men are admitted to the enjoyment of Gospel 
privilege, the ordained "pledge to assure them 
thereof," they are driven to look about them 
for other means and other pledges, and the 
result for the most part is, that they fix upon 
some moment of awakened religious conscious 
ness as the period when they pass from death 
unto life. Till that moment arrives, every 
effort after holiness must fail, nay, such efforts 
are not without presumption, such "doing 
ends in death." So the practical result is, 
that the many, who have not experienced this 
conscious awakening are encouraged in spiri 
tual sloth, under the idea that they have not 
yet received regenerating grace, while the 
few, who have had these experiences, are led 
to place far too much confidence in them, as 
setting them free for ever from the condemna 
tion of the law, and assuring them of their 
eventual place in Christ's kingdom of glory. 
Far different from this has been the method 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHKEN. 85 

of the Church of Christ. Relying fully on 
the promises of God made to us in Baptism, 
and recognising gladly that gracious welcome, 
whereby our Saviour Christ has called the 
young children to the privileges of His king 
dom, the Church has ever taught each baptized 
child to regard himself from his earliest days 
as the object of God's covenanted favour, as 
blessed with the presence of His Spirit, as pos 
sessing by virtue of His union with Christ a 
title to the heavenly inheritance. And thus, 
instead of waiting for some future period of 
possible illumination, as the only trustworthy 
pledge of his admission into the Divine cove 
nant, he is encouraged to regard the blessings 
of that covenant as already his own, and to 
make full proof of the privilege and grace he 
has received by running with patience the 
race that is set before him. This frank recog 
nition, moreover, of the reality and efficacy of 
baptismal grace gives point to every warning 
against the danger of receiving that grace in 
vain, or presuming upon the favour of God, as 
though it could never be forfeited or with- 



86 HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 

drawn. And if, unhappily, there has been in 
any case a departure from grace and a falling 
into sin, the same great doctrine of a past 
admission into the Divine favour is at once 
a warning against further falling, and a loud 
call to repentance, encouraging the wandering 
child of God to arise and go to his Father, 
and seek once more, before it be too late, 
those privileges which he had cast aside. 



CHAPTER Vi. 

S ANCTIFIC ATION. 

THE doctrine of Sanctification holds a very 
important place in the theology of the Church. 
It keeps ever before the minds of men the 
necessity of practical holiness ; it points out 
the way in which that holiness may be se 
cured, and thus at once calls into full play 
the energies of the spiritual life, and prevents 
the glorious liberty of the children of God 
degenerating into Antinomian licence. It is 
to this doctrine, in one or other of its aspects, 
that the Apostles constantly appeal, when 
they are warning men against abusing the 
doctrines of grace, against acting and speak 
ing, as though the freedom of Christianity 
consisted in the right to live to ourselves, 
and not in the power to live to God. It is 
with them the requisite complement of the 
doctrine of a gratuitous justification, checking 
as it does the tendency of that doctrine to 



88 THE HISTOBY AND TEACHING 

produce presumption and carelessness, and at 
the same time supplying a most effectual 
test, whereby we may discover for ourselves 
whether or no we are retaining our hold on 
that great and essential gift of God ; for unless 
the work of sanctification be really advanc 
ing within us, we have no guarantee what 
ever of our continued interest in the Divine 
pardon ; nay, we have positive proof that we 
are in danger of forfeiting it altogether, in 
accordance with our Saviour's declaration, 
"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit 
He taketh away 1 ." Accordingly, when any new 
school of thought arises within the Church, or 
when a new sect springs up without it, one 
of the most important questions we can ask 
by way of probing its tendencies is, What is 
its teaching on sanctification ? And this is the 
more essential when the school or sect in 
question puts very prominently forward the 
great doctrine of the free justification of be 
lievers. For the experience of individuals 
and the history of the Church unite to teach 
1 St. John xv. 2. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 89 

us, that wherever Satan finds himself unable 
to shake men's faith in the gratuitousness of 
that mercy which pardons and justifies, it is 
ever his favourite device to turn that truth 
into an occasion of falling by making it take 
up the whole field of view, and so leading 
men to ignore, or at least to disparage, the 
absolute necessity of that personal and prac 
tical holiness, without which no man shall see 
the Lord. Where this tendency is allowed to 
run its course unchecked, where, e. g. the doc 
trine of sanctificatiori is allowed to slip en 
tirely out of view, the result is that most 
dangerous and deluding heresy, which from 
its complete rejection of the moral law is 
known as Antinomianism, a heresy which in 
its full development is the parent of the 
grossest licentiousness and crime, and thus 
involves its unhappy votaries in the chains of 
that very captivity from which Christ had 
set them free. 

And even where this tendency is held in 
check by the partial recognition of the counter 
balancing truth of sanctification on the part 



90 THE HISTOEY AND TEACHING 

of the teachers of the new school, or by their 
deep personal piety, the tendency itself is the 
same, and when it comes to operate on those 
whose minds are not fortified by the presence 
of better principles, it leads by a longer road 
to the same end. Nor can any effectual safe 
guard be devised to counteract this tendency 
except that of giving to the doctrine of sanc- 
tification that emphatic prominence which, as 
I hope to shew, it evermore received at the 
hands of our Blessed Lord and of His Apostles. 
These remarks seem necessary to introduce 
our investigation of the treatment this truth 
receives at the hands of the Brethren. From 
what we have already seen of their teaching 
we shall be prepared to find their theory 
of sanctification defective, but this expectation 
must not prevent our giving it a dispas 
sionate consideration, and frankly recognising 
every point in it which reflects the teaching 
of Holy Scripture. 

And first, it is to be noticed, that the general 
doctrine of the Brethren as to the source and 
the agent of our sanctification is that of the 



OF THE PLYMQUTH BRETHREN. 91 

Church in all ages. We are sanctified, they 
tell us, in Christ Jesus and by the Holy 
Spirit. On this point their testimony is as 
express and emphatic as we can desire. But 
when we proceed to enquire into their views 
as to the nature and working of this gift, 
their peculiarities begin to shew themselves. 

And here the reader must be reminded that 
the word sanctification as used in the sacred 
writings has two distinct but closely con 
nected meanings. To sanctify means, in the 
first place, to consecrate, to set apart or sepa 
rate a person or thing for the service of God. 
Thus God is said to have blessed the seventh 
day and sanctified it. Thus He commanded 
Moses to sanctify to Him all the first-born ; 
and in the same sense He declared concerning 
the Temple of Solomon, " I have chosen and 
sanctified this house that My name may be 
there for ever." Our Lord, moreover, may be 
thought to have used the expression in a 
similar sense when in His great act of Inter 
cession 1 He speaks of "sanctifying Him- 

1 St. John xvii. 19. 



92 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

self." But when the term "to sanctify" is 
applied to a sinful fallen being, something 
more is signified than the mere setting apart 
and consecrating to God's service. A sinful 
fallen being as such cannot serve God, and 
therefore, if the setting apart of such an one 
is to be anything more than an empty form, 
it must involve something which counteracts 
the paralysing effects of sin, and imparts to 
the sinner a power which by nature he can 
not have. Nay, as the evil wrought by 
sin, original and actual, in the framework 
of human nature cannot be reversed in a 
moment, the sanctification of such an one 
involves a prolonged process by which evil 
dispositions are cured, evil habits are broken 
off, and the man more and more renewed in 
the spirit of his mind after the image of Him 
that created him. In this latter sense we 
find the word sanctification frequently em 
ployed in the New Testament, e.g. i Thess. 
ch. iv, where it occurs three times in a warn 
ing against practical immorality. "This is 
the will of God," says the Apostle, "even 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 93 

your sanctification, that ye abstain from 
fornication, that every one of you should 
know how to possess himself of his own 
vessel in sanctification and honour, for God 
called us not for uncleanness but in sancti 
fication (lv ayiaa-jjiu) ; " again, in ch. v. 23 of 
the same Epistle, the cognate verb occurs 
in a similar sense, "The very God of peace 
sanctify you wholly;" while in Hebrews xii. 
14 the word reappears in the same sense, 
"Follow peace with all men, and sanctifica 
tion, without which no man shall see the 
Lord." In all these passages the word is 
used in the second of the two senses spoken 
of above, for that gradual purification of 
heart and life which the Spirit carries on 
in the living members of Christ's body, and 
by which He produces in them more and 
more the moral likeness of Jesus Christ. I 
may add, that it is in this sense that the word 
is for the most part used in the language of 
theology. Now the Brethren, while admit 
ting the importance of sanctification in the 
latter sense of the term, and allowing that it is 



94 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

in this sense that the word is used in the pas 
sages just cited, direct attention mainly to the 
former meaning, which they declare to be that 
most frequently employed in Scripture. Thus 
Mr. Darby says 1 , "I would point out to you 
the meaning of the word sanctification ; it is 
rarely use'd in the Scripture in the sense in 
which we generally use it, that is to say, in 
the progressive sense ... I do not set aside 
this sense of the word, but it more particu 
larly means an act of separation, a setting 
apart for God." And Mr. Kelly says, yet 
more strongly 2 , " The word sanctification in 
variably means the setting apart to God those 
who are concerned. ... It does not matter 
where the word is found in Scripture, sanc 
tification, when used of a man, invariably 
means a setting apart to God;" though he too 
admits, on p. 12 of the same pamphlet, that 
there are passages in which the word is used 
"exclusively" in the other sense. Now if 
the Brethren contented themselves with point- 

1 "Sanctification," p. 5. 

2 "True Sanctification," by W. Kelly, p. 3. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 95 

ing out the original meaning of the word, 
with directing attention to those passages in 
which that meaning seems the predominant 
one, and drawing from this use of the term such 
practical lessons as might suggest themselves, 
they would be doing good service. But they 
lay so much stress upon the meaning of the 
word as generally used in the Old Testament 
that the fuller meaning generally attached to 
it in the New Testament is put quite into the 
background. And, as the act of consecration 
involved in the earlier meaning is represented 
as irreversible when it has once taken place, 
it becomes the main anxiety of one holding 
their view of the subject to discover whether 
that act has taken place or not. If it has 
not, he has neither part nor lot in the matter ; 
if it has, he is set apart for ever, he has all 
that is necessary for salvation, and is secured 
against all danger of finally falling away. 
For instance, Mr. Darby says 1 , "When we 
have received Christ, there is not a single 
grace which is not for me and in me. There 

1 "Sanctification," p. 15. 



96 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

is no Christian who has not every grace that 
is in Jesus. Suppose even a state of failure ; 
it is the strongest case, but this hinders not 
that we possess all in Him. Failure is a sad 
thing, but that changes not the position ; for the 
Christian has received not a part of Christ but 
the whole of Christ." And in precise accord 
ance with this principle he says to those who 
are in anxiety about their sanctification, " As 
sure yourself first of all that you are saved." 

In the writings of Mr. Mackintosh l we find 
this view of the subject carried out in further 
detail. In " Things New and Old " he denies 
emphatically that sanctification is a progres 
sive work in virtue of which our old nature is 
made better; he declares that both Scripture 
and the experience of believers are against 
such a view. On the contrary, he maintains 
that sanctification " is an immediate, a com 
plete, a divine, an eternal work ; " that, like 
the resurrection of the body, it is done in a 
moment : " The idea of a member of the family 
of God, or of the body of Christ, wholly 

1 " Sanctification What is it ? " p. i. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 97 

justified, but only half sanctified, is at once 
opposed to Scripture and revolting to all the 
sensibilities of the Divine Nature ! " Again 1 : 
" Could any one be in Christ and be only half 
sanctified? Assuredly not. He will grow 
in the knowledge and experience of what 
sanctification really is. He will enter into its 
practical power, its moral effects upon his 
habits, thoughts, feelings, affections, and asso 
ciations ; in a word, he will understand and 
exhibit the mighty influence of Divine sancti 
fication upon his entire course, conduct, and 
character. But then he was as completely 
sanctified in God's view the moment he be 
came linked to Christ by faith, as he will be 
when he comes to bask in the sunshine of the 
Divine Presence ! All was settled the moment 
he believed in the name of the only-begotten 
Son of God, as settled as ever it will be, 
because as settled as God can make it." 

The above extracts, and they might be 
multiplied to any extent, make it quite clear, 
that though the Brethren do not deny that 

1 " Sanctification What is it ? " p. 16. 
H 



THE HISTOBY AND TEACHING 



there is such a thing as progressive sancti- 
fication, while in some parts of their writings 
they even insist upon its importance, they for 
the most part use the term in a sense which 
excludes the idea of progress. But the reader 
must not gather from this that the difference 
between their teaching and that of the rest of 
Christendom on this point is simply one of 
phraseology. For important doctrinal issues 
are involved in the emphasis they lay on the 
original meaning of the word. 

I. In the first place, this use of the term 
excludes the moral law as a rule of life from 
the idea of sanctification. It enables them to 
teach that we are sanctified by faith only, with 
out effort and without works. Mr. Mackintosh \ 
speaking of " earnest anxious struggling 
souls," who have not received his view of 
this subject, says, "They have gotten right 
eousness and justification without works 1 , but 
they imagine that they must get sanctification 
with works. They have gotten righteousness 
by faith, but they imagine that they must get 

1 " Sanctification What is it ? " p. 13. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHKEN. 99 

sanctification by effort. Thus it is they lose 
their peace. They do not see that we get 
sanctification in precisely the same way as we 
get justification, inasmuch as Christ is made 
to us the one as well as the other. Do we get 
Christ by effort ? No ; by faith. It is ' to 
him that worketh not' This applies to all we 
get in Christ." Surely this is a terrible per 
version of Scripture. When St. Paul says 
Christ is made to us sanctification, he means 
Christ is the source of the grace that sanctifies, 
Christ is " He that sanctifieth 1 ," but this by no 
means implies that no efforts on our part are 
required by way of responding to that grace. 
Mr. Mackintosh might as well argue that 
because Christ is made to us wisdom, therefore 
no effort is required on our part to appro 
priate and secure that wisdom. 

II. This view of the doctrine leaves men 
without practical test as to their present state 
in God's sight. The question which it puts 
into the mouth of a Christian whose con 
science is stirred on this matter of sanctifica- 

1 Hebrews ii. n. 
H 3 



100 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

tion is not, Am I being sanctified in the sense 
of being made holy ? or, in Scripture language, 
Am I growing in grace and in the knowledge 
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ? but 
have I been already completely and eternally 
sanctified ; have I, that is, been separated, set 
apart for salvation finally and for ever ? And 
for an answer to this question the enquirer is 
directed not to any of the proper fruits of this 
setting apart in his increasing practical holi 
ness, but simply to his own internal per 
suasion that Jesus is the Son of God; as 
though we could possibly know how far our 
persuasion on this point is of the nature of 
Christian faith, except by enquiring how far 
it has influenced our hearts and reformed our 
lives. Far different from this is the method 
of Holy Scripture. There we are evermore 
directed to the fruits of the Spirit, as the only 
reliable proof of His abiding Presence. There 
the continued growth within us of love, joy, 
peace, long-suffering, and other Christian 
graces is represented as the only sure guar 
antee of our present freedom from the con- 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHREN. 101 

demnation of the law. While the Apostle, 
who more than all others has been permitted 
to unfold to the Church the unfathomable 
mysteries of Divine Love, has given us no 
other test of our personal interest therein but 
the strictly practical one, " Hereby do we 
know that we know Him, if we keep His 
commandments V 

III. But thirdly, the view we have been con 
sidering removes one of the safeguards of the 
Christian life, by declaring that the crown is 
sure before the race has been begun. By 
making practical sanctification a matter en 
tirely subsidiary to a sanctification which has 
already set us apart irrevocably for salvation, 
it renders void and meaningless those constant 
warnings addressed to Christians in the New 
Testament against receiving the grace of God 
in vain 2 , or treating as an unholy thing that 
blood of the covenant wherewith they once 
were sanctified. Scripture, indeed, ever re 
cognises the grace and mercy of God as " the 
sole source of all the good received by us, 

1 i St. John ii. 3. a 2 Cor. vi. I ; Hebr. x. 29. 



102 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

and of all the imperfect good as yet accom 
plished in us 1 ." At the same time, it makes 
privilege the measure of responsibility, and 
demands obedience not merely as a return for 
mercies already received, but as the indispens 
able condition of their continuance. " Be not 
deceived," says St. Paul, " God is not mocked ; 
whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also 
reap 2 ." " Know ye not that to whom ye yield 
yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye 
are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto 
death or of obedience unto righteousness 3 ?" 
Kemember that this last reminder was ad 
dressed to men whom the Apostle had just 
bidden to reckon themselves dead unto sin, 
but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our 
Lord, and then say whether such a warning 
is not made utterly nugatory by the Brethren's 
theory of sanctification. 

It may indeed be said that the Gospel fur 
nishes us with higher motives for obedience 
than the fear of drawing back to perdition, 

1 Dr. Mill, "Five Sermons on the Temptation," No. 5. 
2 Gal. vi. 7. 3 Rom. vi. 16. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHKEN. 103 

and that our love to God, and our gratitude 
for mercies secured to us without our desert, 
should be such as to enable us to dispense 
with all other and inferior motives. And 
indeed there would be force in this, if either 
our love or our gratitude were all that it 
ought to be. If, indeed, we loved the Lord 
our God with all our hearts and all our souls ; 
if His mercies in Christ Jesus made their 
appeal to hearts in which the power of sin 
existed no more, then might motives such as 
these be sufficient to bear us on to a whole 
hearted and unreserved fulfilment of His Holy 
Will. But since our daily experience tells us 
that neither our love nor our gratitude, even 
at their best, form any adequate response to 
the goodness and mercy of God, it is surely 
not wise to throw upon principles which sway 
us so imperfectly the whole work of supplying 
the motive power of our spiritual life. And 
when we find that He who knows our needs 
has appealed to our fears as well as to our 
affections, has interspersed His strongest decla 
rations as to the freeness and fulness of His 



104 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

own inercy with the most emphatic warnings 
as to the possibility of falling short of it, 
and the terrible consequences of doing so, 
we see at once that the provision made in 
Scripture for our needs in this respect is in 
exact agreement with what our own experi 
ence has shown to be so necessary. There 
are stages in the inner life of even the greatest 
saints, in which they need the stimulus of 
fear to keep them in the way of righteous 
ness, or to bring them back into it when at 
the call of some besetting temptation they 
have for a season wandered ; and it may well 
be, that among those who shall reach by God's 
mercy the prize of their high calling, there will 
be not a few who will have to thank Him in 
all eternity for His merciful and timely warn 
ings, warnings which would never have been 
given had not the impending danger to which 
they pointed been a terrible reality. 

Or if it be argued, as it sometimes is, that 
we are doing more honour to God when we 
suppose that He will not allow any sin of ours, 
however great or heinous, to separate us finally 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 105 

from Him ; the reply is easy, that we must 
gather our ideas of what is most for God's 
honour not from our own preconceptions, but 
from what He has distinctly revealed concern 
ing Himself. And as He has declared that 
there shall in no wise enter into His Presence 
anything that defileth, that He will Himself 
deprive of their portion in the book of life 
those who mutilate His revelation to mankind, 
it is neither wise nor humble on our part to 
invent or to embrace any theory of salvation, 
which sets these sacred warnings summarily 
aside, or to apply the promise of everlasting 
salvation in such a way as to make them void. 
The declarations of our Blessed Lord as to 
the eternal safety of those who are truly His 
apply in the first instance not to persons, but 
to characters, even to such as hear His voice 
and follow Him, and it is only in proportion 
as we sustain this character that we have any 
claim to them as our own. Accordingly the 
great Apostle of the Gentiles, notwithstanding 
all the signs of Divine favour bestowed upon 
him, kept under his body and brought it into 



106 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

subjection, lest after all he should fail in 
attaining the heavenly prize, and exhorted the 
most enlightened among his converts to work 
out their salvation with fear and trembling ; 
while St. Peter exhorted those who were being 
kept by the power of God through faith unto 
salvation to pass the time of their sojourning 
here in fear, and to beware lest being led away 
by the example of the wicked they should fall 
from their own steadfastness. 

IV. But there is another point in the teach 
ing of the Brethren on this subject, which 
demands the more attention because it neu 
tralises in great measure what admissions 
they make as to sanctification being in some 
sense a progressive work. It is their con 
stant assertion that sanctification does not 
consist at all in the amelioration of our 
nature. That nature they declare is an 
utterly ruined thing, and an utterly ruined 
thing can never be sanctified. Mr. Darby, 
after dwelling on the words "all flesh is 
grass, the grass withereth," adds 1 , "God never 

1 " Sanctification," p. n. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 107 

sanctifies what withers like grass ; " and again, 
in his notes on the First Epistle of St. John, 
he says, " There is no cleansing of the old 
nature, no mending of the old Adam. We 
have got the new nature, which cannot sin." 
Another writer says, " God does not change or 
remove or ameliorate the old nature in any 
degree in imparting a new;" while Mr. Mack 
intosh, in the pamphlet cited above, states the 
matter yet more fully, "The word of God 
never once teaches us, that the Holy Ghost 
has for His object the improvement, either 
gradual or otherwise, of our fallen nature, 
that nature which we inherit by natural birth 
from fallen Adam ; " and he quotes St. Paul's 
words, "the natural man cannot receive the 
things of the Spirit of God," as a clear and 
conclusive proof, that the natural man cannot 
be sanctified by the Holy Ghost. Of course 
it will follow from all this, that the only 
progress possible in sanctification will consist 
in an increasing realisation of the fact that 
we are already sanctified, and accordingly 
Christians are exhorted by the Brethren, as 



108 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

the very condition of enjoying peace, not to 
look for any improvement in their nature. 

But a little examination will show us, that 
a mistaken use of the terms "flesh," "old 
man," "old nature," and their opposites, under 
lies the above reasoning. A careful reader of 
St. Paul's Epistles will have observed, that 
when he uses the expression "the old man" 
and "the new man," he is referring, not to 
two distinct natures properly so-called, but 
to two distinct conditions of one and the 
same human nature. By the " old man " the 
Apostle means human nature in its fallen 
state, subject to all the manifold spiritual 
evils which transgression has brought into 
the world, in bondage to sinful habit, unable 
"to turn and prepare itself by its own natural 
strength and good works to faith and call 
ing upon God 1 ," and destitute of that light 
and truth which alone can restore it. By 
" the new man," on the other hand, the Apostle 
means the same human nature rescued from 
its former state of ruin, pardoned and accepted 

1 Art. X. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 109 

in Christ, endowed in Him with spiritual 
life and power, and so coming forth from the 
doors of its prison-house and leading its cap 
tivity captive. When the same Apostle tells 
the Colossians 1 , that they have put off the 
old man and his deeds, and have put on the 
new man, he means that they have exchanged 
their old estate of sin and ruin in Adam for 
their new estate of pardon, life, and privilege 
in Christ ; and when he exhorts the Ephe- 
sians 2 to put off the old man and to put on 
the new man in their practice, he is simply, 
as the context clearly shows 3 , bidding them 
abandon the practices which were the natural 
fruit of their former state, and to cultivate 
and exhibit the graces of the position they 
now enjoyed and the spiritual life they had 
received. It is the same with the corresponding 
expression "the flesh and the spirit." They 

1 Coloss. iii. 9, 10 . 2 Eph. iv. 23, 24. 

3 Eph.iv. 25, "Wherefore putting aw ay lying, speak every 
man truth with his neighbour ; " 28, " Let him that stole 
steal no more ; " 29, " Let no corrupt communication proceed 
out of your mouth ; " 31, " Let all bitterness and wrath, etc. 
be put away from you." 



110 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING- 

represent, not two natures strictly so called, 
but two distinct conditions of our common 
human nature ; those who are still living 
under all the disabilities entailed by the fall 
are said to be " in the flesh," those who have 
been made members of Christ and endowed 
with the Spirit of grace are said to be " in the 
Spirit." So too, when we speak of the old 
nature and the new nature, we are using the 
word nature in its metaphorical and not in 
its realistic sense, to designate the different 
characters and powers belonging to our com 
mon humanity, according as it is destitute of 
or endowed with the life-imparting grace of 
the Most High. 

These considerations will enable us to esti 
mate aright the statements of the Brethren 
quoted above. If by the expressions "the 
flesh," "the old nature," "our fallen humanity," 
they simply mean unsanctified humanity, 
then to say that the flesh, our old nature, 
cannot be sanctified, is only equivalent to 
saying that unsanctified humanity cannot as 
such be sanctified. But we need not credit 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHBEN. Ill 

the Brethren with such a pointless and barren 
truism. 

If, on the other hand, they mean, as in the 
passages cited above they certainly seem to 
mean, that our human nature is so fallen that 
it cannot be improved or restored, since God 
will not sanctify a ruin, then they are giving 
an emphatic contradiction to some of the 
most direct statements of the New Testament, 
they are placing an unheard-of limitation on 
the power of the Holy Ghost, and robbing of 
one of its chiefest glories the Kedeeming work 
of our blessed Lord. But, besides this, the 
practical tendency of such teaching is of a 
most dangerous kind. For it leads men to 
be careless and unconcerned about those 
workings of evil which have place even in 
the regenerate. It leads them to ascribe such 
workings to their possession of a nature 
which cannot be sanctified, and to comfort 
themselves with the reflection, that since 
they also possess another nature, which is 
sinless, all must come right at last. Scripture, 
indeed, evermore recognises clearly the pre- 



THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 



sence of the flesh in the regenerate man, the 
existence, that is, of desires and affections 
which have not yet yielded themselves to the 
sanctifying influences of the Spirit of God. 
Our new birth in Christ does not extirpate 
at once the inherited bias of our nature, nor 
does the grace which restores a fallen Chris 
tian reverse in a moment of time the evil 
dispositions resulting from past transgression ; 
it is only by degrees that the true circum 
cision of the Spirit has its perfect work 
within us, " and our hearts and all our mem 
bers are mortified from all worldly and carnal 
lusts 1 ." But while the existence of evil in 
the regenerate is thus fully recognised, that 
evil is never treated as an unconquerable foe, 
nor are Christians taught to consider their 
peace concerned in not expecting any im 
provement in their nature; on the contrary, 
the grace imparted to them is always repre 
sented as abundantly sufficient to subdue all 
evil tendencies, and to bring every thought, 
desire, and affection into captivity to the 

1 Collect for the Feast of the Circumcision. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHKEN. 113 

obedience of Christ. With such vast powers 
at their command, Christians are exhorted 
to make full proof of them in the constant 
suppression of everything in their hearts or 
lives which displeases God 1 . The presence and 
working of evil within them need never take 
them by surprise, but should always fill them 
with grave anxiety and alarm, and stir them 
up to crush it before it acquires strength. 
This, at all events, is the object that a Chris 
tian has before him in his daily struggle with 
sin. It is his heart's desire and his prayer 
to God, that his whole nature with all its 
powers and affections may be purified more 
and more, may become in an increasing de 
gree an acceptable sacrifice to the Most High. 
That the Brethren fully share in this desire 
we do not for a moment doubt, indeed their 
writings bear ample witness that they do. 
But when they tell us not to expect any im 
provement in our nature, when they assert 
that our fallen nature can never be sanctified, 
they are, unintentionally, no doubt, teaching 

1 Gal. v. 1 6. 

I 



114 HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 

men to acquiesce in the existence of evils 
which it should be their lifelong endeavour 
to remove. The struggle will at the best 
have many drawbacks and disappointments, 
but nevertheless it must be sustained, and 
we cannot deprecate too strongly teaching 
like that we have just been noticing, which 
tends to weaken the hands of those who are 
engaged in it. 



CHAPTEE VII. 
THE CHRISTIAN'S BULK OF LIFE. 

THEBE is, perhaps, no part of the teaching 
of the Brethren which needs more careful 
and dispassionate investigation than that 
which deals with the moral law. Many of 
their statements on this subject recall the 
wildest vagaries of Antinomian heresy, while 
at the same time their earnest protests against 
such a construction being put upon their 
words, and the evident desire of many of 
their writers to enforce a high standard of 
practical holiness, forbid us to follow out 
some of their statements to what seems to 
be their logical conclusion. Moreover, their 
teaching on this subject has had so much to 
do with determining their views and shaping 
their statements on other subjects more or 
less connected with it, that it would be im- 
i 2 



116 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

possible to gain a full view of the latter 
unless we carefully examine the former. 

It is, then, their constant assertion that 
the law is not the rule of a Christian's life, 
and by the law they explain themselves to 
mean, not the whole Mosaic system, but the 
moral as distinguished from the ceremonial 
portion of it. The statement is reiterated 
with an emphasis and earnestness which tes 
tifies to the importance which they attach 
to it. To call it in question is to shew 
but little appreciation of the full range of 
Gospel liberty ; to deny it is to part with one 
of the choicest privileges of the Christian 
calling. It is necessary therefore to consider 
the grounds on which this strange teaching 
is supposed by them to rest. 

I. First, then, they direct our attention to 
those passages in St. Paul's Epistles in which 
he declares that the Christian is "not under 
law," is " free from it," is " dead " to it. They 
bid us mark the absence of all qualification 
from these statements, and recognise in that 
an unanswerable proof of their favourite 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 117 

theory. "Scripture," says Mr. Darby, "does 
not say you are not under law in one way, 
but you are in another; you are not for jus 
tification, but you are for a rule of life. It 
declares you are not under law but under 
grace." Before, however, we accept the con 
clusion to which this argument is meant to 
lead us, it will be well to examine the pas 
sages appealed to, and to discover the sense 
in which the Apostle uses the expressions in 
question ; and it will be found that in none 
of these cases is he treating of the Christian's 
rule of conduct, but either of the ground of 
his justification, or of the source of that spiri 
tual life whereby he lives to God. In short, 
the Apostle's statements on this subject 
appear to fall under the three following 
heads. 

1. The Law cannot by its very nature jus 
tify one who has transgressed its precepts ; 
its office towards a sinner, as such, is only to 
condemn him. 

2. The Law cannot impart to a fallen viti 
ated nature the powers of a new spiritual 



118 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

life, and enable a man to burst the bonds of 
evil nature and evil habit. 

3. So far is the Law from possessing any 
such quickening power, that it tends, by its 
very opposition to our depraved inclination, 
to stir up the very evils which it condemns. 

In all these cases the Apostle is speaking, 
not of a Christian's rule of life, but of the 
relations of law to man unrenewed. This will 
be still more evident if we examine in detail 
some of those passages on which the Brethren 
rely as the support of their theory. One of 
the passages most frequently appealed to by 
them is that contained in Galatians iii. 10 : 
" As many as are of the works of the law are 
under a curse : for it is written, Cursed is 
every one that continueth not in all things 
that are written in the book of the law to 
do them." It is evident from this, the Bre 
thren say, that the law cannot be the rule 
of a Christian's life, for it would bring him 
under a curse. "A Christian," says Mr. 
Darby, " has sin in him, and fails ; and if the 
law applies to him he is under the curse, for 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 119 

it brings a curse on every one who sins." And 
again, " The law has power to rule and curse 
a man as long as he lives. It makes no dif 
ference between regenerate and unregenerate ; 
it curses all who attempt to stand before it." 
But it is clear from the context of the above 
passage that the Apostle is speaking of those 
who looked to the law for justification. In 
verse 8 he speaks of God justifying the Gen 
tiles through faith. In verse 11 he proceeds 
to shew that no one is justified by the law 
in the sight of God. When, then, he says in 
verse 10, "As many as are of the works of 
the law are under a curse," he evidently 
means as many as depend on their works 
for justification are under a curse, because 
they have not fulfilled the condition on which 
alone the law can justify, viz. that of entire 
obedience. This passage, then, must be re 
ferred to the first of the above heads, and 
has nothing to do with a Christian's rule of 
conduct. 

Another statement in the same Epistle is 
alleged in proof of their theory : " If ye be led 



120 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

by the Spirit, ye are not under the law 1 ." This 
the Brethren take to mean, If ye are led by 
the Spirit, ye are free from the law as a rule 
of life. Here, again, however, the context 
makes it quite clear that the Apostle is 
speaking of legal condemnation. He is stir 
ring up the Galatians to walk in the Spirit 
as the true way of overcoming the lusts of 
the flesh. "Walk in the Spirit," he says, 
"and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. 
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, 
and the Spirit against the flesh: and these 
are contrary the one to the other: that ye 
may not (Iva yd] Troir/re) do the things that ye 
would 2 ." And then he adds, "But if ye are 
being led by the Spirit, ye are not under the 
law," i.e. ye are not under that legal condemn 
ation in which fulfilling the lusts of the flesh 
would surely involve you. That this is the 
meaning of the expression " ye are not under 
the law," is clear from the parallel expression 
in ver. 23, where, after enumerating the fruits 
of the Spirit, i.e. the results of walking 

1 Gal. v. 1 8. ' Gal. v. 16, 17. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 121 

in the Spirit, he says, "against such there 
is no law." But that the Apostle does not 
mean to abolish the law as a rule of life is 
evident from the intermediate verses. For 
in verses 19-21 he gives a catalogue of the 
works of the flesh ; and he declares concern 
ing such works, that they who do them shall 
not inherit the kingdom of God. 

Now when we examine these works of the 
flesh, we find that they are one and all 
breaches in one form or another of the moral 
law, either of the first or second table. So 
what the Apostle really says is this, that 
they who commit these breaches of the moral 
law shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 
Surely it must be quite clear from this that 
the Apostle did regard the moral law as the 
rule of a Christian's life. But further, he next 
proceeds to give us a catalogue of the fruits of 
the Spirit, love, joy, peace, &c.; and we find 
on examining them, that they consist simply 
of those dispositions of mind which issue by 
natural and necessary consequence in the 
fulfilling of the law. Whether, therefore, we 



122 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

look at his description of the works of the 
flesh, or at his description of the fruits of 
the Spirit, we see that each is based on the 
assumption that the moral law is the rule 
of a Christian's life. In an earlier chapter 
of the same Epistle the Apostle says, " I 
through the law died to the law that I might 
live unto God 1 ." It is curious that this 
should be alleged by the Brethren in support 
of their theory, for scarcely any passage of 
the Apostle's writings could be quoted which 
more convincingly disproves it. For what 
is living unto God but living agreeably to 
those relations which God has established 
(i) between us and Himself, (2) between us 
and our neighbours? What is it but loving 
the Lord our God with all our heart, and our 
neighbours as ourselves ; and what is this but 
taking the moral law as a rule of life? But 
the Apostle tells us he died to the law in 
order to do this. What does he mean? Of 
course he cannot mean that he died to the 
law as a rule of life in order that he might 

1 Gal. ii. 19. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 123 

fulfil it as a rule of life, for this would be 
to contradict himself. But in the foregoing 
context he has been denying that men can 
be justified by the law. To die to the law 
in this passage, then, is to refuse to look to 
it as the ground of justification ; so when 
the Apostle says, " I died to the law that I 
might live to God," it is as if he said, I 
died to the law as the ground of justification, 
in order that Christ living in me I might 
fulfil it as a rule of life. But further, the 
Apostle says, I "through the law" died to 
the law, i.e. the law was itself the instru 
ment of my death : it revealed sin, it con 
demned sin, it stirred up sin, it provided me 
neither with pardon for the past, nor with 
grace for the present. It compels me, there 
fore, by its very nature to die to it, to look 
elsewhere both for pardon and for grace as the 
very condition of fulfilling it by living to God. 
There is another passage in the same Epistle, 
which seems at first sight to bear out their 
view, and certainly does not admit of the 
same explanation as those just cited: "Before 



124 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

faith came," says the Apostle, "we were kept 
under the law, shut up unto the faith which 
was afterwards to be revealed. So the law 
has been our schoolmaster to bring us to 
Christ, that we might be justified by faith, 
but after that faith is come we are no longer 
under a schoolmaster 1 ." Here certainly the 
Apostle seems to be asserting without quali 
fication the entire abolition of the law. But 
it is plain from the context that throughout 
this portion of his argument he is not speak 
ing of the moral law properly so called, or 
merely of the moral portion of the Mosaic 
code, but of the Mosaic system as a whole. 
For instance, he speaks of it in an earlier 
verse of this chapter as having been intro 
duced 430 years after God gave His promise 
to Abraham, as having been ordained by 
Angels in the hand of a mediator. He de 
scribes it in ch. iv, under the expression " the 
elements of the world," as "weak and beggarly 
elements ; " he speaks of it as involving the 
observance "of days and months and years." 

1 Gal. iii. 23. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 125 

It is clear, then, that he is speaking of the 
whole Mosaic system, including the ceremonial 
as well as the moral portion of it, and what 
he tells us is, that the office of this great 
system, as a system, was tutorial and prepa 
ratory. It could not justify, it could not give 
life, but it pointed to, it prepared the way for, 
One who could do both, and so when He ap 
peared, this its office came to an end. While 
"shut up" under that system, man was like 
a youthful heir under the guardians of his 
nonage, but just as the heir on attaining his 
majority passed from under the hands of his 
guardians, so those who were baptized into 
Christ were emancipated ,from the prepara 
tory system, under which they had been pre 
viously "kept," to enter upon the privileges 
and responsibilities of the sons of God. In 
a word, the Apostle is not denying here that 
the Mosaic system contained elements which 
were incapable of abolition: indeed, he else 
where, as we shall see further on, expressly 
asserts that it did ; he is only saying that the 
system/ as a system, was introduced for a 



126 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

temporary purpose, and therefore of course 
passed away when that purpose had been 
accomplished. 

The Epistle to the Galatians then, though 
so frequently appealed to by the Brethren, 
does not, even in the passages which they 
allege, support their cause ; but there are cer 
tain passages in the Epistle to the Romans 
which are frequently cited by them as wit 
nesses to their teaching, and therefore demand 
our examination. 

The statements most frequently appealed 
to in this Epistle are contained in the sixth 
and seventh chapters. In the first of these 
chapters we have the statement, "sin shall 
not have dominion over you, for you are not 
under the law but under grace." Here the 
Brethren tell us there is no question of justi 
fication, but of victory over sin, and the 
Apostle considers that that victory is secured 
by the abolition of the law as a rule of life. 
The Apostle, however, is really warning the 
Romans against an abuse to which the doc 
trine of grace is liable in the hands of 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 127 

"curious and carnal men." They would say, 
as indeed they have said again and again, 
If the grace of God is so abundant, so over 
flowing, let us continue in sin, that it may 
abound. He points out the inconsistency of 
such a deduction with that death unto sin 
of which men are made partakers when they 
are buried with Christ in baptism; he en 
larges on the character and, purpose of that 
great privilege, showing that it was bestowed 
for no other reason than that we should 
henceforth walk in newness of life. We may 
remark in passing that "walking in newness 
of life " is in this passage opposed to " con 
tinuing in sin," and as sin is, according to 
St. John's definition, avofj.ta, disregard of law, 
so walking in newness of life must involve 
the keeping of the law. Having expounded 
the nature and purpose of baptismal privilege, 
he goes on to stir up those whom he addresses 
to think and act as men who really possess it : 
" Beckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto 
sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ 
our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your 



128 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

mortal body, neither yield ye your members 
servants to uncleanness and to lawlessness 
unto lawlessness, but yield yourselves to God 
as those who are alive from the dead, and your 
members as instruments of righteousness unto 
God." What is this warning against "law 
lessness"? what is this exhortation to make 
our members instruments of righteousness 1 ? 
what is this warning against allowing sin to 
reign within us ? what are these but so many 
proofs that the Apostle did regard the moral 
law as the rule of a Christian's life? Once 
more, by way of encouraging them to this 
course of holiness and conformity to law, he 
adds, " for sin shall not lord it over you, for 
ye are not under law, but under grace." In 
order to see the meaning of this last sentence, 
we have only to call to mind what has been 
said above as to the effects of law on those 
who are not under grace ; the law, it has been 
shown, can of itself only reveal sin, condemn 
sin, stir up sin, it cannot secure conformity 
with its own demands, and therefore the 
Apostle's reasoning amounts to this : If you 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 129 

were under law; if law, that is, represented 
the whole .of your relations with God, sin 
could not but have dominion over you. For 
you have sinned, and the law provides no 
pardon ; you are weak through sinning, and 
the law provides no strength ; but being under 
grace, you have both pardon for the past and 
strength for the future ; therefore stir up the 
gift that is in you, and sin shall not have 
dominion over you. 

In ch. vii we have the following passage: 
" Now we are delivered from the law, having 
died to that wherein we were held." Here 
there certainly seems at first sight to be an 
entire setting aside of the law in every sense. 
We are said to have been discharged from the 
law (Revised Version), to have died to that 
in which we were once held fast. But a 
glance at the context will show us that the 
expression "we have been discharged from the 
law" in ver. 6, is opposed to the expression 
" when we were in the flesh " in ver. 5. In a 
word, the Apostle is contrasting the state of 
grace, into which we Christians have been 
K 



130 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

called, with the natural state in which we all 
alike were born. When we were in the flesh 
his reasoning implies we were under the law, 
for there was nothing to stand between us 
and that righteous sentence which that holy 
law pronounces, and cannot but pronounce, on 
every sinner ; and not only so, but that law by 
its very opposition to our natural inclinations 
stirred up our evil passions, which being thus 
excited wrought within our members to bring 
forth fruit unto death, thus increasing our 
condemnation. But now, being united to 
Christ, we have been discharged from this 
state of bondage. We are no longer neces 
sarily liable to have our evil inclinations 
roused as we listen to its just demands, and 
so we are free, to do what 1 ? to serve our 
selves ? to set aside the law of God as a rule 
of life 1 ? no, but "to bring forth fruit to God," 
"to serve Him in the newness of the spirit, 
and not in the oldness of the letter." Is it 
not clear from this passage that the very 
purpose of our redemption is the production 
of a more spiritual obedience, a more thorough 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 131 

yielding of ourselves in body, soul, and spirit 
to Him who has promised, "I will put My 
laws in their inward parts, and write them 
upon their hearts " ? 

We have thus examined most of the pas 
sages on which the Brethren rely in support 
of their strange theory, that the moral law 
is not the rule of a Christian's life, and we 
have seen that in no case do they countenance 
such an idea, while in some the context makes 
it evident that the Apostle is throughout as 
suming the very contrary. If we were to 
examine other passages we should only arrive 
at similar conclusions with respect to them, 
but we must now turn to another argu 
ment. 

II. The Mosaic code, the Brethren tell us, 
is the only law God ever gave to man, except 
the prohibition to eat the forbidden fruit; 
from this of course the inference is easy that 
the moral law, being part and parcel of the 
Mosaic system, was to pass away with it. 
Adam before the fall, they say, was not under 
law, except in the single particular mentioned 
K 2 



132 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

above ; his goodness was of a negative rather 
than of a positive kind ; he was simply inno 
cent, not righteous or holy, since the latter 
characteristic would have implied a law. The 
first generation of mankind, from Adam to 
Moses, were not, according to the Brethren, 
under law ; they had acquired indeed by the 
Fall, what Adam had not before the Fall, a 
knowledge of good and evil, and thus were 
in some sense a law to themselves ; but they 
were not under any God-given law; conse 
quently, though they could sin, they could 
not transgress, since transgression implies the 
existence of such a law, whereas sin, accord 
ing to the Brethren, does not. 

Now in reply to all this it may be observed, 
first, that the writer of the book of Genesis 
does not pretend to give us in detail the 
covenant existing between God and our first 
parents before the Fall. He dwells only on 
the particular in which that covenant was 
broken ; nor was there need for more than 
this, for in offending on that one point they 
set aside the relations previously subsisting 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 133 

between God and them. But that they were 
under other obligations beside that specified 
in the narrative is evident from the nature 
of the case. Their relations with their great 
Creator and preserver involved that faith, 
fear, love, worship, gratitude and confidence 
which are due to Him from all His intelligent 
creatures ; their relations with one another im 
plied at least that mutual love, which was at 
once the well-spring and the guarantee of 
mutual duty ; and thus, within the very gates 
of Eden we see in full operation the moral law 
of God. Whether, indeed, that law was made 
known to our first parents by specific revela 
tion, or whether their unstained consciences 
recognised as though by instinct the relations 
in which they stood to God and to each other, 
and their unbiassed wills gladly chose the good 
and right way, in either case those relations 
were the ordinance of God, and the law 
which was implied in their existence was the 
law of God. And further, as regards the 
theory of the Brethren that man was created 
in innocence, not in righteousness and true 



134 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

holiness, what can be more contrary to the 
Scripture statements that God created man 
in His own image, God made man upright? 
If man before the Fall fulfilled those moral 
obligations of which we have spoken above, 
he was most certainly a holy being ; if he did 
not fulfil them he was most certainly not an 
innocent one. The truth is, the Brethren's 
idea of man's original state has no foundation 
either in Scripture or in reason, it is in direct 
contradiction to the teaching of the Ancient 
Church, it is simply an expedient to which 
they have had recourse for the sake of elimi 
nating the idea of law from their conception 
of the unfallen state of man. Nor when we 
turn to the state of man after the Fall do we 
find their teaching any more satisfactory, 
for man was still under all those obligations 
which the moral law imposes. He had for 
feited, indeed, his power of meeting those 
obligations in their fulness, but the obliga 
tions remained, for a debt does not cease to 
exist because we have not the means of 
liquidating it ; accordingly, we find most dis- 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 135 

tinct evidence in patriarchal history that the 
moral law was binding, and that the conscience 
of man recognised its obligation. What is the 
terror-stricken cry of the first murderer, " From 
Thy face shall I be hid, and it shall come to 
pass that every one that findeth me shall 
slay me," but the recognition of a broken 
law and of a righteous retribution ? Why did 
the Deluge sweep away the descendants of 
Seth and Cain alike, but because the earth 
was full of violence, and all flesh had cor 
rupted his way upon the earth ? Why were the 
Cities of the Plain set forth for an example 
of eternal fire, but because another portion of 
God's holy law had been despised and cast 
aside ? And when we turn to those who had 
attained by penitence and faith to a foretaste 
of Gospel graces and blessings, what a testi 
mony have we to the existence and obligation 
of the moral law in the Divine declaration 
concerning Noah, " Noah was an upright man 
and perfect in his generation, and Noah walked 
with God:" "Thee have I seen righteous be 
fore me in this generation : " or again, in the 



136 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

declaration concerning Abraham, " I know 
Abraham, that he will command his children 
and household after him to keep the way of 
the Lord, to do justice and judgment:" and 
once more, what else but a recognition of a 
law universally binding do we hear in the 
exclamation of another patriarch in a moment 
of fierce temptation, "How can I do this great 
wickedness and sin against God 1 ?" 

But, indeed, the teaching of the Brethren 
on this subject arises from a most inadequate 
conception of the nature of the moral law. 
It is not a mere code of precepts capable of 
being repealed by the same authority which 
imposed it. It arises by necessary conse 
quence out of those relations which God has 
established, first between man and Himself, 
secondly between man and man. It has, 
then, existed from the beginning, it must 
exist until the end. To say that there ever 
was a time, since man's creation, when there 
was no moral law, is to say that there was 
a time when man had no relations either with 
God or with his fellows. To say that a 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 137 

Christian is set free from the law as a rule of 
life, is to say either that a Christian has no re 
lations to God or man, or that he is at liberty 
to ignore them. Mr. Darby in his tract upon 
" Law," indeed, endeavours to avoid the rock 
of Antinomianism on which his theories are 
driving him, by making a distinction between 
the moral portion of the law as spoken of by 
St. Paul, and moral law in general. The for 
mer, he tells us, has been abolished, the latter 
remains; from the former we have been de 
livered, but "to say that a Christian is de 
livered from the latter is nonsense or utterly 
monstrous wickedness." 

But in the first place, the distinction is 
nugatory. The moral precepts of the Mosaic 
code are but the embodiment of that morality 
whose obligation Mr. Darby proceeds to assert. 
We have seen already that these precepts 
were binding from the beginning, and that 
the breach of them had been visited with 
Divine judgments of the severest kind. More 
over, all that the Apostle says as to the in 
ability of the law to convey pardon and 



138 THE HISTOBY AND TEACHING 

grace, of its terrible effect in stirring up the 
evils it condemns, applies quite as much to 
what Mr. Darby calls "morality" as to the 
moral code of Moses itself. Indeed, so nuga 
tory is the distinction which Mr. Darby has 
attempted to draw, that further on in the 
same pamphlet he obliterates it himself. For 
he says, on p. 4, " It is the moral law which 
is ruinous in its effect to every fallen child of 
Adam," and on p. 5, after quoting the Apostle's 
words, " ye are not under law," " the strength 
of sin is the law," " I was alive without the 
law once," he proceeds to explain them by 
saying, "he is speaking of the law in its 
moral nature and essence ; " and again, on 
p. 14, "Law is the measure of man's responsi 
bility as such to God." Surely we may ask 
in this case, how can it possibly cease to be a 
rule of life? Mr. Darby's desire to escape 
Antinomian conclusions is undoubtedly a 
genuine one; but it is best secured by not 
adopting Antinomian premisses. His declara 
tions as to the obligation a Christian is 
under to obey the precepts of the New Testa- 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 139 

ment, and to gain all the light he can from 
those of the Old Testament, are in themselves 
most satisfactory, but they are made in the 
teeth of the position he has set himself to 
defend, " that the moral law is not the rule of 
a Christian's life." 

His disciples, however, in some cases at 
least, do not seem to shrink from following 
their master's principle to its natural con 
clusion. In a little pamphlet on the Con 
firmation vows, Mr. Mackintosh accuses the 
Israelites of " proud legality " for making the 
solemn declaration " All that the Lord saith 
unto us we will do." He sets aside the sen 
tence of Divine approval, "They have well said 
all that they have spoken" by the suggestion 
that that approval referred only to a part of 
what they had said, viz. to their confession of 
their inability to endure the Divine Presence. 
And in accordance with this, he proceeds to 
attack the Church for requiring of candidates 
for Confirmation a promise that they will keep 
God's commandments. Such a promise he 
likens to "the promissory note of a bankrupt," 



140 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

and declares that it involves " an insult to 
the righteousness of God," and " a plain and 
palpable apostasy from the religion of faith." 
Nor is he satisfied with the defence that we 
make this promise in full dependence upon 
the covenanted grace of God. " There can be 
no such thing as grace," he tells us, " when 
people are putting themselves under law." 
"To ask for grace under such circumstances 
is to ask for grace to subvert entirely the 
whole gospel of Jesus Christ." 

III. But there is one more argument put 
forward by the Brethren on which a few 
words must be said in conclusion. Christ, 
they tell us, is our rule of life, and by assign 
ing this position to the law we virtually put 
it in Christ's place. St. Paul, as Mr. Darby 
reminds us, puts Christ and the law in con 
trast. And accordingly, he concludes that, on 
St. Paul's own showing, we cannot be under 
obligation to Christ and to the law. But, as 
has been pointed out on an earlier page, 
Christ is opposed by the Apostle to the law 
as the ground of justification and as the 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 141 

source of life. He has done that which the 
law could not do ; for He has purchased 
pardon and acceptance for us, and He is also 
Himself the source of that new life whereby 
we live to God. And therefore to look to the 
law for that which the law cannot do, but 
which Christ has done, is of course to abandon 
the Christian ground altogether. It is, in the 
language of the Apostle, " to fall from grace." 
But when the Brethren infer from this that 
Christ and the law are opposed to each other 
as rules of life, they are not only introducing 
into their conclusion an element not contained 
in their premisses, but they are ignoring the 
relations subsisting between the law and the 
life of our Blessed Lord. That life exhibits 
to us the perfect working of that law ; in it 
we behold the solitary instance of an entire 
response on the part of man to all those 
claims of God and man of which the moral 
law is the expression. Therefore, in the life 
of Christ we see the moral law not abolished, 
but established for ever as the rule of life 
for man. 



CHAPTEK VIII. 

THE RELATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN TO 
THE WORLD. 

LIKE many of those who in ancient times 
separated from the Church, the stricter 
Brethren separate as far as possible from the 
world also. They denounce secular life 
generally as though it were a service of Satan, 
and only allow those whom they can in 
fluence to practise medicine and a few handi 
craft trades. Politics, commerce, military and 
naval service, and general social intercourse 
they set wholly on one side, as forming part 
of a system on which there rests the maledic 
tion of the Most High, as involving inter 
course with the unconverted, and so being 
inconsistent with that entire " separateness " 
which they regard as the chief characteristic 
of a Christian Nay, to such an extent do 
some of them carry this principle of separa- 



HISTOEY OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 143 

tion from the world that they refuse to asso 
ciate themselves with others even for religious 
purposes, unless they are assured that those 
with whom they join are in their view " con 
verted men," and as they can never have this 
assurance in the case of mixed societies, they 
decline to join such societies. "I may be 
asked," says Mr. Mackintosh 1 , "if I would 
not help a man by the roadside to get his cart 
out of the ditch ? I reply, certainly ; but if I 
were asked to become a member of a mixed 
society for the purpose of getting carts out of 
ditches, I should refuse, not because of my 
superior sanctity, but because God's word 
says, Be not unequally yoked together with 
unbelievers. This would be my answer, no 
matter what were the object proposed by a 
mixed society." 

That there is a sense in which Christians 
are bound to separate from the world no one 
who knows anything of Christianity will 
deny ; such separateness in some sense is in 
volved in the very idea of a Christian ; that 

1 " The Unequal Yoke," p. 33. 



144 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

in all necessary intercourse with the world, a 
straight and even course must be kept, and 
nothing undertaken which prejudices our 
position as members of God's household, or 
impairs in the least degree our loyalty to 
Him, will be admitted without proof by all 
who call themselves Christians ; nor can it be 
questioned that the greatest care and cir 
cumspection, the greatest watchfulness and 
prayer, are necessary for those who would 
engage in secular pursuits without injury to 
their spiritual life. But when theories on 
this subject are put forward which would ex 
clude Christian men from secular offices, and 
so leave these offices entirely in the hands of 
unbelievers ; when Christian men are dis 
couraged from joining religious associations, 
lest perchance they should contract contami 
nation in doing so, we are entitled to enquire 
into the reasoning which leads to such strange 
conclusions. 

And I think it will appear from examina 
tion that their teaching on this subject rests 
mainly on a misconception as to the exact 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 145 

meaning of the expression " the world," a mis 
conception remarkably parallel to that which 
has been noticed in a previous chapter with 
respect to the expression "the flesh." It was 
there pointed out, that by the flesh is meant 
not human nature in itself, but human nature 
apart from God human nature with all those 
perverted powers and evil tendencies which 
always characterise it, while it is destitute 
of that knowledge which is life eternal. And 
so too "the world/' in its Scriptural sense, 
may be taken to signify not human society 
in itself, but human society considered as 
estranged from God. In that state of estrange 
ment the thoughts, desires, and affections of 
men are confined to earthly things. The 
gratifications of sense, the attractions of 
worldly wealth and grandeur, or the aspi 
rations of an intellect, which, conscious of 
no power above it, becomes too readily a god 
to itself, or as the Apostle has called them, 
the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and 
the pride of life, these are the principles 
which sway human society in its state of 



146 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

estrangement from God ; these become the 
objects for which men live, the highest ends 
to which their efforts are directed. Under 
the sway of such principles there is no form 
of evil which will not flourish and abound; 
whatever tends to rouse and gratify the 
bodily appetites, whatever can minister to 
the acquisition of wealth or the attainment 
of power, whatever can feed that intellectual 
pride which, when Divine truth is offered, forms 
the greatest hindrance to its reception, all 
these are eagerly sought after, unscrupulously 
used. It is this state of moral and spiritual 
chaos which is designated by our Saviour and 
His Apostles "the world." The evil tenden 
cies indeed involved in this absence of the 
knowledge of God do not always have their 
full effect, but they are always present, and 
only wait favourable opportunities to dis 
close their real nature. The necessity of pre 
serving order in some degree, the feeling of 
mutual interest, or the presence and working 
of better principles, may counteract them for a 
time, but when the power that lets is taken 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHKEN. 147 

for a season out of the way, they attain their 
full development, and manifest to all who 
have eyes to see the terrible evils which are 
the fruit and the curse of human society apart 
from God. It is then from the world in this 
sense, the world so far as the lust of the flesh, 
the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are 
its ruling principles, that the Christian desires 
to flee. It is not human society in itself, but 
human society estranged from God, and the 
principles which reign therein as the result of 
that estrangement, that we are called upon 
to renounce. And just as the man who re 
nounces the flesh does not renounce human na 
ture with all its powers of mind and body, but 
only those principles which reign in it in its 
unrecovered state, so the man who renounces 
the world does not renounce human society 
in itself with all its various offices and duties, 
he simply declines to be guided by those prin 
ciples which sway human society when once 
it has cut itself off from the true source of 
strength and of union. 

But further, it may be shown that however 
L 2, 



148 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

much Scripture dwells on the evils entailed 
by the Fall, it never loses sight of the fact 
that human society, like human nature itself, 
is in its origin divine; and just as the Fall 
did not change the essence of our humanity, 
but only introduced disorder and confusion 
into its constitution, so neither did it alter 
the essential framework of human society. 
The family, the tribe, the nation, the king 
dom, were all the natural development of a 
system whose foundations were laid before 
the Fall, and we find frequent instances in the 
Old Testament Scriptures in which God dis 
tinctly sanctions that wonderful organisation 
which was in its first beginnings the work of 
His own hands. In the cases of Noah, of 
Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, we see His re 
cognition of the family; in His covenanted 
relations with their descendants, we see His 
recognition of the tribe, the nation, the king 
dom. And as the Jewish kingdom was 
running its course, and after it had come to 
an end, we see distinct indications in the pro 
phetic writings of a Divine recognition of 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BEETHEEN. 149 

this same system among the heathen. Nay, 
we find the chosen people in the time of their 
captivity bidden to pray to the Lord, for the 
peace and prosperity of a heathen power, and 
even accepting high and responsible office 
under a heathen monarch. But as it is on 
the New Testament chiefly that the Brethren 
found their theory of entire separation from 
the world, we must ask how this question is 
there handled. Does the New Testament 
recognise human society as a Divine Institu 
tion? or does it condemn it as a lost and 
ruined thing, with which the saints are to 
have nothing to do? And first we may 
notice our Blessed Saviour's recognition of 
human authority. To say nothing of His sub 
mission to the regulations of His own nation, 
in what way does He deal with that power 
which during His life on earth was the chief 
representative of the world the Power of 
Rome? The question was once put to Him 
in person by some who would have entangled 
Him in His talk, and He replied by bid 
ding his questioners "render to Caesar the 



150 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

things of Caesar." And what He thus re 
quired of others He was prepared to do Him 
self ; He allowed Himself to be brought before 
the judgment-seat of Pilate, and thus recog 
nised in His own sacred Person the authority 
which Pilate represented. Would He have 
yielded this submission Himself? would He 
have required the like submission at the 
hands of others, had He regarded the autho 
rities of the world as simply representatives 
of the god of this world? And when from 
the Lord we turn to His Apostles, we find the 
same recognition of human society and human 
authority as Divine ordinances. While re 
sisting such authority to the death when it 
exalted itself against the knowledge of God, 
or arrayed itself against the claims of Jesus 
Christ, they ever yield it a dutiful submission 
in the things of this life, and even use the 
advantages which it offers. St. Paul on more 
than one occasion availed himself of his privi 
leges as a Roman citizen to escape the fury of 
his persecutors ; privileges which, on the prin 
ciples of the Brethren, he ought to have 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 151 

trampled under his feet. On another occa 
sion he deliberately placed himself under the 
protection of Claudius Lysias, and at last 
claimed the privilege of pleading his cause 
before Caesar, as the highest court of appeal in 
all earthly things. 

And when from the actions we turn to the 
teaching of the Apostles, we find the same 
principles recognised. What can be more 
emphatic than the statement of St. Paul in 
Rom. xiii, a statement which acquires all the 
more force when we remember that it is ad 
dressed to persons who were living at the 
centre of earthly government. "Let every 
soul be subject to the higher powers, for there 
is no power but of God, and the powers that 
be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore 
resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of 
God." In a subsequent verse he twice speaks 
of the temporal rulers as ministers of God, as 
persons who were to be obeyed not only for 
wrath, but also for conscience sake; and 
further on he uses a still stronger word, 
t, to express the closeness of their 



152 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

relations with God as His accredited represen 
tatives. St. Peter, in very similar language, 
recognises the validity of human authority, 
and claims obedience to it " for the Lord's sake," 
while he and St. Jude alike mention " speak 
ing evil of dignities" as one of the charac 
teristic marks of the mockers of the last time. 
But it may be said all this only goes to 
show, what the Brethren have never denied, 
that it is the duty of Christians to obey their 
temporal rulers. It proves, we submit, a great 
deal more ; it proves that God Himself recog 
nises human authority and human govern 
ments as His agents in the administration of 
the world. It thus invests high offices in the 
state with a sacred character by regarding 
them as the ordinances of Him who rules in 
the kingdoms of men. Why then should it 
be inconsistent in a Christian man to hold an 
office, which God has so distinctly authorised 
as a part of the providential system which He 
has established, for the order and welfare of His 
creatures ? If He recognised such offices when 
filled by heathen representatives, will He be 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 153 

less ready to recognise them when filled by 
those whom " He has called to the knowledge 
of His grace and faith in Him ?" It is no argu 
ment against this view to say, that the Chris 
tians of the Apostolic age are not represented 
as holding high offices in the state. They 
could not do so from the nature of the case, 
as the first converts were derived almost ex 
clusively from the lower orders; but in the 
second generation we find saints in Caesar's 
household, and Erastus, one of St. Paul's 
followers, is spoken of as holding a high office 
in the government of Corinth. These two 
instances are by themselves sufficient to estab 
lish the principle that Christianity does not 
exclude its professors from holding secular 
appointments. 

Hitherto we have spoken only of high 
offices in the State, but the same principle 
holds good of all lawful occupations by which 
the needs of society are supplied, by which 
we are made to serve one another while we 
provide for ourselves. These various occupa 
tions, whether in higher or in humbler station, 



154 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

are a part of God's providential system, and 
the duties they involve may one and all be 
performed as unto the Lord. Without com 
merce indeed of some kind, men's wants can 
never be supplied at all; it is therefore an 
essential part of God's system, and accord 
ingly it is recognised distinctly by God in His 
dealings with His ancient people. The cen 
sure pronounced by the Prophets on the great 
commercial powers of the ancient world are 
directed not against their commerce itself, but 
against the spirit in which it was pursued, 
and against the covetousness, luxury, and 
wrong-doing which had become connected 
with it ; and later experience has shown how 
necessary such censure may be. But these 
evils form no essential part of commerce, 
while the existence of them only calls the more 
for the assistance of those who are bound by 
the most solemn obligation to be "true and 
just in all their dealings." Moreover, the sanc 
tion given in the New Testament to many of the 
occupations of mankind extends by parity of 
reasoning to others which are not mentioned. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 155 

Our Lord Himself by following the occupation 
of a carpenter has given a general sanction to 
one class of worldly employments. And if 
the Apostles Peter and Andrew and the sons of 
Zebedee forsook their occupation at the bid 
ding of Jesus Christ, this was not because the 
occupation was itself unlawful, but because 
He had other work for them to do. Had our 
Lord regarded it as unlawful in itself He 
would never have encouraged it by the two 
miraculous draughts of fish. So too, though 
Matthew the Publican forsook the receipt of 
custom at the call of Christ, yet the answer of 
the Baptist to those Publicans who sought 
his baptism, " Exact no more than that which 
is appointed you," makes it plain that in his 
view the calling of a Publican did not involve 
anything necessarily inconsistent with the cha 
racter of those, who were preparing by repent 
ance for the coming of the kingdom of God ; 
while with regard to military service (and 
naval service of course stands on precisely the 
same footing) we have the most distinct indi 
cations in Scripture of its entire consistency 



156 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

with the character and calling of a servant of 
God. When those engaged on military service 
applied to St. John the Baptist to know what 
they should do by way of preparation for the 
Kingdom of God, he cautioned them against the 
besetting temptations of a soldier's life, but said 
not a word as to their withdrawing from it ; 
on the contrary, by bidding them be con 
tent with their rations he assumed that they 
would remain in it. The centurion of Caper 
naum, the centurion of Caesarea, the devout 
soldier who waited on the latter, are three 
instances in which the calling and work of 
a soldier were combined with heartfelt and 
acceptable devotion to Almighty God. The 
Brethren, indeed, object to military service 
partly on the ground that a soldier's com 
mission has to be derived from the " world ; " 
but this is equally true of almost every 
other calling in which men can engage ; and 
besides, as has been already pointed out, the 
world from which our earthly callings derive 
their origin is not the world which Scripture 
bids us to forsake. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 157 

With regard to intercourse with the society 
in which our lot is cast, the same rule holds 
good. We do not renounce social inter 
course with our fellow-men, we only renounce 
such intercourse as would involve us in sub 
jection to those three evil principles which 
rule where God is forgotten or unknown. Our 
Lord, though He denounced unsparingly the 
hollowness and hypocrisy of the Pharisees; 
though He inveighed against the insincerity 
of their teaching and the scandal of their 
example, did not hesitate to accept their hospi 
tality and to hold social intercourse with 
them. Nor did the many evils which charac 
terised the Publicans as a class hinder Him 
from going among them also, and taking His 
disciples with Him ; and surely there is some 
thing in all this which calls for our imitation. 

That there are circumstances under which 
Christians should withdraw from the society 
of others will of course be admitted by all. 
Any society which is found by experience to 
imperil our faith or our purity, or which 
would involve giving countenance directly or 



158 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

indirectly to what is wrong, must be carefully 
avoided by those who would walk uprightly ; 
and this, as much for the sake of those whose 
society they forsake as for their own. But it 
is one thing to insist on this, it is quite another 
to proscribe all ordinary social intercourse as 
evil, and to associate with those only whose 
religious convictions are the same as our own. 
Such general repudiation of our fellows may 
not in all cases spring from a Pharisaic spirit, 
but it is almost sure to generate one ; and 
besides this it has a tendency to narrow the 
intellect and to cramp the affections, and to 
prevent the growth of that expansive sym 
pathy which makes us ready according to 
our opportunities to do good unto all men. 
Christians should be the salt of the society 
in which they live, but how can they act in 
this capacity, if they withdraw from that 
which they should influence ? How can our 
light shine before men, if at the bidding of the 
Brethren we hide it under a bushel ? But the 
Brethren themselves have furnished us with 
an answer to much of their own teaching on 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 159 

these points. For while they condemn the 
whole superstructure of human society as a 
doomed thing, they recognise its foundation 
the family as the ordinance of God. In 
Mr. Mackintosh's paper, "Thou and thy 
house," an analogy is drawn between the 
house of God and the house of God's servant, 
and much is said of the privilege and re 
sponsibility attaching to the household of a 
Christian man. His principles, his example, 
his authority are to be brought to bear on 
every member of his household. It is not 
that he can himself perform the work of 
grace, or directly dispose the hearts of the 
members of his household to walk in his steps, 
but he is warranted, as Mr. Mackintosh ex 
presses it, in counting upon God for his family, 
and responsible to train up his children for 
God. In saying this Mr. Mackintosh is but 
echoing the teaching of St. Peter and St. Paul, 
who in the directions they give to husbands 
and wives, to parents and children, to masters 
and servants, imply, that it is in the power of 
Christianity to sanctify family life. Surely 



160 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

then if the family, the root of all human so 
ciety, be so capable of receiving Christian in 
fluence, the same must in its measure be true 
of those larger and wider organisations into 
which families eventually develope. If the 
root be holy, the branches must in some 
measure be holy also. If the family be 
capable of receiving and cherishing the sanc 
tifying influences of the Christian faith, surely 
the same influences must be capable of affecting 
society at large. And does not the family re 
present to us in miniature the way in which 
these sacred influences operate in a wider 
sphere ? Just as the Christian principle, the 
Christian example of the head of a household 
is the ordinary means by which its careless 
or godless members are won to recollected- 
ness and religion, so the practical piety of 
individual Christians is the ordinary means 
of spreading through the different depart 
ments of society the influence of our most 
Holy Faith ; and instances are not wanting 
in which the firmness and consistency of one 
man engaged in one of the common callings 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 161 

of life has produced the most salutary effects 
on other followers of the same calling. In 
deed, every man who avoids or withstands 
the temptations incidental to his position, and 
discharges its duties as in the sight of God, 
refutes the theory so common among the 
Brethren, that these callings are inconsistent 
with the privileges and duties of a Christian. 
From the view which the stricter Brethren 
take of the present condition of the world we 
naturally gather that they regard with no 
favour the numberless philanthropic agencies, 
which are at work everywhere, and which 
have for their object the amelioration of our 
present life; indeed, so far from favouring 
them, they would rather seem to regard them 
with distrust and aversion. Not content 
with pointing out that philanthropy, com 
monly so called, can at the best do no more 
than alleviate temporal evils, and so can 
never become a substitute for Christianity, 
some of them speak as though the two were 
necessarily opposed, as though the very at 
tempt to remove the evils of our present 
M 



162 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

state involved opposition to the Divine pur 
poses, and a presumptuous setting aside of 
the sentence of condemnation which has been 
pronounced upon the world. One of their 
writers, speaking of philanthropic agencies, 
tells us 1 , that the ground such agencies take 
is "unsafe for a believer," and "helps in 
fact to consummate the apostasy." The end 
proposed in them is "at the best man's moral 
and intellectual improvement," and this they 
regard as not only falling short of the Divine 
purpose, but as opposed to it. "In the esti 
mation of God," we are assured, "the condi 
tion of man before him is so bad, that it is 
absolutely irremediable. . . . Hence the end 
of God's philanthropy is salvation, deliver 
ance out of such a state, not the improve 
ment of it," and so philanthropy is described 
as " the vain pretence of man to be wiser and 
better than God in dealing with evil and the 
misery of man." Again, we read, " Viewed in 
the light of God's truth philanthropy is the 

1 See a pamphlet entitled "Philanthropy," published by 
W. H. Broom. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHREN. 163 

minding of the things of the flesh." Accord 
ingly, we are warned of "the necessary con 
flict" which must arise sooner or later be 
tween philanthropy and Christianity, and are 
assured that directly Christianity asserts its 
principles " it will cast such shame and con 
tempt on the efforts of philanthropy as to be 
esteemed an enemy and a hindrance in its 
way." 

It is clear that the above principles, if car 
ried out to their logical conclusion, would 
utterly paralyse the efforts that are being 
made to remedy the evils of life. All reform 
in the system of secular education, all ad 
vance in science, all improvements in art and 
manufactures, all sanitary measures, must 
fall under this condemnation, for all are 
attempts to improve man's present condition. 
Nay, it is hard to see how medical science can 
form any exception to the rule. For does it 
not aim at improving the worldly condition of 
man ? does it not in this sense " mind the 
things of the flesh"? and does not "death 
end its efforts " 1 

M 2 



164 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

But there is an error which vitiates all 
their teaching in dealing with this question, 
on which a few words must be said. In 
speaking of philanthropy and Christianity as 
necessarily opposed, they forget, or, at all 
events do not give its due weight to the fact, 
that philanthropy is in its origin the direct 
offspring of Christianity. 

It is not that the principle of improving 
the temporal condition of our fellows was 
entirely lost sight of under the earlier dispen 
sations, but it is the Gospel which has given 
it its fullest development, its widest sphere of 
exercise. When the "love towards man 1 " 
((j)L\av0p(>T7ia) of God our Saviour was made 
manifest in the Incarnation and Death, the 
Resurrection and Ascension of our Blessed 
Lord, and more especially when His work on 
our behalf received its consummation in the 
coming of the Holy Ghost, then indeed the 
principle of doing good to all men received an 
impulse which it had never felt before ; and 
while the main object of the Christian Church 

1 Titus iii. 4. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 165 

was ever to set forth the great salvation 
which God had provided, and to call on all 
around her to embrace it, she did not fail to 
exhibit her love towards man in relieving and 
bettering his temporal condition. Followers 
of Him, who in the days of His humiliation 
scattered temporal blessings on every side, 
the early Christians were ever ready to im 
prove the earthly condition of those among 
whom they lived ; and while they paid special 
regard to the claims of those who were of 
the household of faith, did not forget as 
they had opportunity to do good to all men. 
The precepts of feeding the hungry, of cloth 
ing the naked, of visiting the sick and the 
prisoners, laid down by our Blessed Lord 
in one of the most solemn of His discourses, 
and enforced at once by the brightest of His 
promises and the most terrible of His threaten- 
ings, lived on from age to age in the memory 
of His Church, till at last they became em 
bodied in permanent institutions, which have 
exercised a widespread and lasting influence 
for good among mankind. And as the ad- 



166 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

vance of knowledge has greatly enlarged the 
power of man to deal with the material evils 
existing around him, and to promote the 
temporal wellbeing and comfort of his fel 
lows, the philanthropic spirit of the Christian 
Church has varied its forms, and multiplied 
its agencies, so that, as one of the Brethren 
acknowledges, " it is impossible to say to what 
extent man's actual misery may be mitigated, 
and the social system improved, by the mighty 
powers and resources of man now being de 
veloped, and by the use of Christianity itself, 
as one of the many means to obtain such 
an end." 

And just as the temporal blessings bestowed 
by our Blessed Lord were the means of lead 
ing many to wait upon Him for higher and 
more enduring benefits, so has the diligence 
of the Christian Church in days gone by in 
improving the temporal condition of those 
around her, been the means of rousing enquiry 
and leading men to seek and secure their 
portion in those heavenly blessings, which it is 
her special work to proclaim and to convey. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 167 

Such then is the origin of the philanthropy 
on which the Brethren look with so much dis 
trust ; and such has been its practical working 
from the beginning until now. If ever indeed 
in some evil hour it should sever itself from 
the stock from which it sprung; if ever the 
improvement of man's worldly condition 
should become the be-all and the end-all of 
philanthropic effort, then not only would 
an antagonism arise between philanthropy 
and Christianity, but philanthropy itself 
would soon cease to be. For all experience 
goes to show, that nothing can lastingly es 
tablish right relations between man and man, 
except the maintenance of right relations be 
tween man and God. Cases may of course be 
cited in which a life of active benevolence 
has been associated with an erroneous creed, 
or even with the absence of any positive 
belief. But making allowance for this and 
any other exceptions, the truth remains un 
shaken, that human affection and human 
sympathy, when destitute of the refining in 
fluences of Christian grace and Christian 



168 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

teaching, can never attain their full develop 
ment. Cut off from Him who is the fountain 
of all pity and tenderness, deprived of the 
stimulus of the One perfect example, and of 
the deepening purifying influences of repent 
ance towards God and faith towards our Lord 
Jesus Christ, they tend to confine themselves 
within the narrow round of earthly needs and 
interests, and thus they can never reach the 
deeper necessities of man's inmost spirit, or 
console him in his darkest hours of sorrow ; 
but more than this, human sympathy and 
affection unsupported by higher influences are 
not proof in the long run against those tenden 
cies to selfishness which exist in a measure in us 
all, and which at times develope themselves with 
surprising and even overwhelming power. 

If the Brethren only wished to warn us 
against the sin of thus separating philanthropy 
from religion, and against the evils which 
must follow such separation, should it ever 
be brought about, we should have every 
reason to be grateful to them ; and so far as 
they do set this issue clearly before us, we 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 169 

gladly listen to what they say. But they go 
on to denounce philanthropy itself ; they dis 
parage the very object at which it aims. We 
have seen however that that object was dis 
tinctly sanctioned by our Lord Himself, was 
commended by Him again and again to His 
Disciples, and enforced as it had never been 
enforced before. We are therefore justified in 
regarding Him as being in the fullest and 
highest sense the Founder of modern philan 
thropy, as He is also the Author and Giver of 
that advanced scientific knowledge which has 
made philanthropic effort so much more 
efficient than it used to be in supplying the 
needs and in alleviating the sufferings and the 
sorrows of mankind. 

In conclusion, we gladly acknowledge that 
there have been, and doubtless still are, many 
among the Brethren who, by their own charit 
able deeds, have furnished us with the most 
effectual, because the most practical refuta 
tion of the theory we have been considering. 
But this fact does not make it less necessary 
to denounce the theory itself as delusive and 



170 HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 

dangerous, as complying with those fatal 
instincts of selfishness and covetousness which 
exist in a measure in us all, and as discouraging 
those efforts to improve man's temporal condi 
tion, by which Christianity has for so many ages 
commended itself to the nations of the earth. 



CHAPTEK IX. 

PROPHECY. 

ON the subject of the present chapter it 
will be impossible in a short treatise like the 
present to enter in any great detail ; but no 
account of the teaching of the Brethren would 
be complete, which passed it over entirely. 
We have seen already, that from the earliest 
days of the movement the Brethren have de 
voted themselves to the study of prophecy. 
The conclusions at which they have arrived 
differ widely in several points from the general 
belief of Christendom, and indeed involve an 
entire recasting of the received interpretation 
of a large portion of the Scriptures. It will 
be necessary therefore to lay before the reader 
an outline of their views. 

I. First, then, it is their belief that the 
coming (-Trapouo-ta) of our Blessed Lord to receive 



172 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

the Church 1 is to be carefully distinguished 
from His final appearing (eTu^ayeta) in glory to 
take possession of the earth. The former 
event they maintain is referred to in His pro 
mise to His Disciples, "I will come again 
and receive you unto Myself," and in the pro 
phetic declaration of St. Paul in i Thess. iv. 
1 8, "The Lord Himself shall descend from 
Heaven with a shout, and the dead in Christ 
shall rise first, then we which are alive and 
remain shall be caught up together with them 
in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air ; 
and so shall we ever be with the Lord." The 
latter event, the appearing in glory, is referred 
to in Col iii. 4, " When Christ who is our life 
shall appear, then shall we also appear with 

1 Attention may here be drawn to the different senses in 
which the Brethren use the word " Church." In their 
earlier writings it is usually applied to Christendom in ge 
neral ; the " Euin of the Church " was one of their favourite 
themes. Afterwards the term was transferred to those 
assemblies, which they have set up as the Resource of the 
Faithful amid "the Euin ; " and lastly, in their treatises on 
Prophecy, it is applied to the whole company of Believers, 
who will have part in the Rapture, as distinguished from 
the Jewish Remnant, and those Gentiles who are to be 
converted by them after the Rapture. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 173 

Him in glory;" and in 2 Tim. iv. i, where 
the Apostle speaks of the appearing and king 
dom of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

These events are represented by them as 
separated by a considerable period of time, 
and as differing from each other widely in 
almost all their attendant circumstances. At 
one time their writers maintained that the 
coming of our Lord for His Church would be 
a secret coming" the shout," " the voice of 
the Archangel," and "the trump of God," would 
be audible only to the faithful, and the rap 
ture of the saints to meet the Lord in the air 
would be secret also ; they would be missed 
among men, and sought for, but their place 
would be found no more. The secrecy of the 
coming however appears 1 to be no longer 
insisted on. But the distinction between the 
coming and the appearing is maintained as 
strongly as ever. The earlier event they assert 
is ever impending no signs are to precede it, 
no historical events are to be expected before 
it takes place. It may happen at any mo- 

1 Sae "The Kapture of the Saints," by J. N. Darby, p. 5. 



174 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

ment. Indeed it is a common practice among 
the Brethren, when making plans or engage 
ments for the future, to add the condition, 
"If the Lord tarry." All that Scripture says 
as to the signs of the times, all its prophetic 
delineations of those events, which are to 
usher in the Day of the Lord, have to do not 
with " the coming " but with " the appearing." 
They do not concern "the Church." They 
are warnings intended for the Jews in the 
latter day ; when the coming takes place, the 
whole Church i. e. the whole company of 
Christian believers living and departed will 
be translated to heaven ; there will not be a 
single believer left on earth. And this rapture 
is to precede all the events predicted in the 
Book of Revelation from chapter iv. onwards. 
In that chapter we find the elders seated in 
Heaven; they represent the Church, and 
therefore Mr. Kelly concludes that the Church 
has been, at the period referred to at the open 
ing of chapter iv, already translated to Heaven. 
"I see no reason to doubt that these chapters 
(iv. and v.) reveal the position of the glorified 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHBEN. 175 

saints above after Churches are no longer 
spoken of on earth." " It is properly a scene 
in heaven after the actual ecclesiastical state 
is closed, and before the millennium com 
mences V And so Mr. Andrew Miller a , speak 
ing of the rapture of the saints, says, " Before 
a seal of judgment is broken, a trumpet blown, 
or a vial poured out, the saints are gone, all 
gone, gone to glory, gone to be with the Lord 
for ever ! What a thought, what an event ! 
Not a particle of the redeemed dust of God's 
children left in the grave ; and not a believer 
left on the face of the whole earth." But 
what, the reader may ask, is to happen on the 
earth in the interval between the "coming" 
and the "appearing"? On this point the 
Brethren are particularly explicit, indeed, a 
very large portion of unfulfilled prophecy is 
regarded by them as referring to that period. 

When the true Church has been removed 
from the scene of her earthly trial, the judg- 

1 " Lectures on the Revelation," by W. Kelly, p. 74. 

2 "The Brethren, their Origin, Progress, and Testimony," 
p. 151. 



176 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

ments of God, long in mercy delayed, will 
fall upon the earth, and especially upon 
apostate Christendom, which is represented in 
the Apocalypse under the figure of Babylon. 
"The times of the Gentiles" will then have 
come to an end, and the prediction " thou also 
shalt be cut off" will receive its accomplish 
ment. The powers of this world with which 
Christendom had allied herself will then prove 
to be her bitter foes, and while serving their 
own purposes in their dealings with her, will 
at the same time be executing upon her the 
righteous judgments of God. 

Among these powers there is one which 
will have an especial prominence and attain 
universal dominion. This power, spoken of 
in the Apocalypse as the Beast, is believed by 
the Brethren to be simply the Roman Empire 
revived, and revived too as an especial em 
bodiment of Satan's agency on earth. Its 
authority will be seconded and its claims 
enforced by another power which will arise 
in the East, and which is identified by them 
with the second Beast of the Apocalypse, and 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 177 

by some with the Antichrist of St. Paul and 
St. John. The chief sphere of its influence 
will be Palestine, where its leading re 
presentative will eventually claim divine 
honours, and will be accepted by a large 
number of the Jews as their long-expected 
deliverer. 

The restoration of this people that is, of 
the two tribes as distinguished from the ten 
is to take place through the influence of some 
maritime power soon after the "Rapture." 
A large portion of them will return to their 
country in unbelief, and will begin to form 
alliances with Gentile kingdoms. When 
Antichrist appears, they will place themselves 
under His protection, and "He will confirm 
a covenant with many of them for one week " 
i.e. for a period of seven years. By the 
terms of this covenant, their sacrificial wor 
ship at Jerusalem will be restored, and their 
worldly prosperity as far as possible secured. 
" In the midst of the week," however, He will 
break His covenant, put an end to " the sacri 
fice and oblation," and for the remaining 



178 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING- 

three years and a-half there shall be a time of 
trouble "such as never was since there was 
a nation even to that same time." So far we 
seem to be witnessing nothing but an uni 
versal reign of evil. But meanwhile God has 
not left Himself without a witness ; and while 
iniquity is abounding on every side a new 
dispensation is being inaugurated. At the 
time of the Rapture, the Brethren tell us, 
there will be a remnant among the Jews who 
will be eagerly looking for their Messiah, and 
resting on those divine promises of national 
restoration, the fulfilment of which has been 
so long delayed. In this faithful remnant the 
Spirit of God will begin to work as soon as 
the Rapture has taken place, and by them, as 
the missionaries of the new dispensation, the 
everlasting gospel is to be preached to " those 
who dwell on the earth, to every nation, and 
kingdom, and tongue, and people." It might 
perhaps be inferred from this that it is the 
Brethren's belief, that this remnant of the 
Jews would take up a position precisely 
analogous to that now occupied by the 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BBETHREN. 179 

Church, i. e. that they would embrace Chris 
tianity, with all its privileges and respon 
sibilities, and convey to the nations of the 
earth the very same message which the 
Church had conveyed before them. But this 
is not their view. On the contrary, they 
distinguish between " the everlasting Gospel" 
spoken of in Eev. xiv, and " the Gospel 
of the grace of God," with which the Chris 
tian Church is charged. This latter, they 
say, is a message of mercy and of grace, 
whereas the everlasting Gospel to be preached 
hereafter by the Jewish remnant is a warn 
ing of coming judgment. The burden of its 
message is to be gathered, they tell us, from 
the words of the Angel who is represented in 
the vision as delivering it : " Fear God, and 
give glory to Him, for the hour of His judg 
ment is come, and worship Him who made 
heaven and earth, and the sea, and the foun 
tains of water." Regarding these words as 
indicating a fundamental difference between 
the two Gospels, they go on to tell us that 
" this Jewish remnant has neither the Church's 

N 2, 



180 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

heavenly blessings, nor the Church's hope 1 ." 
They recognise indeed in Jesus Christ their 
true Messiah, but they are looking forward, 
not to reigning with Him in heavenly glory, 
but to sharing " the earthly glory under Him 
in the land according to the promise made to 
them." " The Spirit of God," we are told, " is 
at work among them with the hopes proper 
to Israel." " They have Jewish faith, Jewish 
hopes, and rest on Jewish promises." To 
them the Brethren apply the larger propor 
tion of those promises which the Church has 
ever regarded as her own. With them the 
Lord is said to have identified Himself in an 
especial way, in that portion of His sufferings 
of which the Darbyites speak as " non-aton 
ing," while those portions of the Psalms which 
seem to be out of keeping with the spirit of 
our dispensation, such as cries for vengeance, 
imprecations on enemies, are explained by 

1 See Mr. J. N. Darby's pamphlet "The Kapture of the 
Saints and the Character of the Jewish Eemnant," pp. 5, 7, 8, 
10 ; also " Plain Papers on Prophetic Subjects," by W. Trotter, 
pp. 371-402 ; and "The Brethren," by Andrew Miller, pp. 
153, 154- 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHKEN. 181 

them as expressing the feelings and wishes of 
the Jewish remnant in that dispensation of 
judgment of which they are to be the mes 
sengers. Thus the revival of Jewish hopes 
and Jewish privileges will, according to the 
teaching of the Brethren, be accompanied by 
a revival of that spirit of the old dispensation, 
which our Lord forbad His Disciples to 
cherish. The remnant are to have their full 
share in those terrible afflictions which are 
to fall on the nation at large ; and it is amid 
these trials that they are to accomplish their 
allotted work of filling the earth with the 
knowledge of the glory of the Lord. In the 
course of this great work many will fall 
victims to the malice and hatred of man, and 
will thus be deprived of a share in " the 
Jewish hope " of dwelling in Palestine under 
the reign of Christ. But the system of the 
Brethren makes provision for these. It re 
cognises them first in those souls under the 
altar, whom St. John describes in Rev. vi. 
as crying to God to avenge their blood. Such 
a prayer, we are told, could not rise from 



182 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

Christian lips ; so we are to recognise in it the 
voice of the martyred remnant, who in so 
praying would only be echoing the spirit of 
the dispensation in which they had lived and 
died. Again, when in the account of the 
millennial reign of Christ we read, " I saw the 
souls of them which had been beheaded for 
the testimony of Jesus, . . and they lived and 
reigned with Christ a thousand years," we 
are told to recognise in these not Christian 
martyrs, for they would have been taken to 
heaven long before, but simply the martyred 
remnant of faithful Jews, who having lost by 
death their share in the earthly blessings of 
their race, will be permitted to share in this 
way in the glories of the coming regeneration. 
Meanwhile the efforts of the surviving rem 
nant to bring the nations under the dominion 
of our Lord will receive an unexpected im 
pulse from the return of the ten tribes to 
their own land. These tribes had no share 
in the great sin of their Jewish brethren, viz. 
the Crucifixion of our Lord, and therefore 
they will be spared any participation in those 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHKEN. 183 

terrible judgments which are yet to fall on 
the Jews in consequence of it. Moreover, 
instead of returning to the land, like the 
Jews, in unbelief, they will have previously 
recognised the claims of Jesus Christ ; the 
rebels and transgressors will have been purged 
out from among them first, and will not be 
permitted to enter the land of Israel. With 
these new allies the remnant will continue 
their work till all the earth shall acknowledge 
the Lord. 

But while these agencies are advancing the 
work of God among men, the powers of evil, 
on the other hand, will be getting worse and 
worse, and ripening for destruction ; till at 
length, at the appointed time, our Lord will 
visibly descend from heaven, the armies of 
heaven, the angels, and the raptured saints 
following Him. The earthly powers, repre 
sented by the Beast and the False Prophet, 
with all their followers, will gather themselves 
together in opposition to Him, and will re 
ceive the utter destruction destined for them. 

Then Satan, having been bound a thousand 



184 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

years, the Empire of Christ will be established 
visibly on earth, with Jerusalem for its centre. 
The Saints of the Rapture and the martyred 
remnant of the Jews will reign over the 
earth. On earth the sons of Israel will enjoy 
the chief place of privilege and power, and 
the largest measure of earthly prosperity 
under the sway of their Messiah. But the 
blessings of His reign will extend themselves 
throughout the world. It is to this period 
that the Brethren, in common with other 
millennarians, refer those prophecies of uni 
versal peace and prosperity, which occupy so 
prominent a place in the writings of Isaiah. 
But though all will thus be brought to know 
the Lord, and to acknowledge Him outwardly, 
and though the incarceration of Satan will 
remove the chief source of human ills, still 
there will be evil at work under the fair out 
side, which the world will then have assumed. 
All will not be at heart the real servants of 
Him whose presence and power they can no 
longer deny; and the hollo wness and hypo 
crisy thus cherished in the very presence of 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 185 

the light will issue at last in a fresh outburst 
of evil. When the period of Christ's reign on 
earth has come to an end, Satan, being set 
free from his long imprisonment, and return 
ing to his house from whence he came out, 
finds in it, notwithstanding the temporary 
cleansing it has undergone, all the materials 
for a fresh rebellion. Accordingly the powers 
of earth gather themselves together once more 
against the Lord and against His Christ ; they 
come up from all sides over the breadth of 
the earth, and attack the seat of Christ's 
earthly Empire, Jerusalem. But they are de 
stroyed by fire from heaven, and their leader 
then receives his final doom. 

Last of all follows the judgment scene 
pourtrayed so briefly and yet so vividly in 
Rev. xx. This has generally been considered 
to represent the universal judgment of man 
kind, when all nations shall be called before 
the throne of Christ, and receive according to 
their works. But this interpretation comes 
into collision on more points than one with 
the teaching of the Brethren. 



186 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

For first they maintain that the saints, i. e. 
the members of the Church of Christ, will 
never be judged at all. They will be made 
manifest indeed at the appearing of Jesus 
Christ, their works will be made known, they 
will receive the rewards of service, but they 
will not be judged according to their works ; 
i. e. the question of final acquittal or condem 
nation will not be in any way determined by 
them. The majestic scene pourtrayed in our 
Saviour's discourse on the Mount of Olives, 
and recorded in St. Matthew xxv, which ap 
pears to contradict this view, has no bearing, 
we are told, on the question. It does not, the 
Brethren assure us, refer to the last judg 
ment at all. It sets forth our Lord's dealings 
with those nations of the earth who, after 
the Rapture of the Church, will hear the 
everlasting Gospel from the missionaries of 
the Jewish remnant, and who will be rewarded 
or punished according as they have received or 
rejected them. 

And further, as we have seen, it is their 
belief, that the resurrection of the righteous 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 187 

and that of the. wicked will take place at 
periods separated from each other by more 
than a thousand years. This view is based 
on a literal interpretation of Rev. xx, and is 
of course held by many beside the Brethren. 
For both the above reasons the judgment 
scene described at the close of that chapter is 
regarded by them as representing the judg 
ment of the wicked only. They will be judged 
according to their works, the degree of punish 
ment being measured in each case by the 
degree of disobedience. But there still re 
mains the difficulty, What is to become of 
those righteous men who died during the 
millennium, if the wicked alone are raised 
when it is over ? To this Mr. Kelly answers, 
"There is no Scriptural proof that such die 
during the thousand years. What is said sup 
poses the contrary. Therefore, if they die not 
during the millennium, there are no righteous 
to be raised at the end of it. They will be 
changed into the likeness of Christ, and trans 
planted into the new heaven and new earth 1 ." 

1 " Lectures on the Kevelation," pp. 383, 384. 



188 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

The new Jerusalem, including the Saints of 
the Rapture, the Saints of the Old Testa 
ment, and the Martyrs of the Jewish rem 
nant, will then descend out of heaven from 
God, and from thenceforth the tabernacle of 
God will be with men. 

Such, then, is the picture which the Brethren 
have furnished us of the things which are 
to be hereafter. Certain elements in it will 
be already familiar to many of our readers, 
as adopted from older schools of prophetic 
interpretation. But there are certain distinc 
tive features contributed by the Brethren on 
which it will be necessary to say a few words. 
These are, first, the Rapture of the Saints 
before the appearing of Christ ; secondly, the 
character and work of the Jewish remnant ; 
thirdly, and in very close connection with 
these two subjects, the peculiar opinions put 
forth by the Brethren as to the day of judg 
ment will come under review. 

(i) First, then, as to the Rapture of the 
Saints before the appearing of Jesus Christ. 
We naturally ask on what scriptural grounds 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 189 

do the Brethren suppose it to rest ? Two pas 
sages frequently cited by them as referring to 
this Rapture have been quoted already, viz. 
St. John xiv. 5 and i Thess. iv. 13-18. On 
the second of these two passages more will 
be said presently, but it may be noticed at 
once that while both alike point clearly to 
the eventual fulfilment of the Church's hope 
of being "ever with the Lord," they neither of 
them prove anything as to that hope receiv 
ing its accomplishment before our Saviour's 
final appearing in glory. Another passage on 
which the Brethren rely is Colossians iii. 4, 
" When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, 
then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." 
From this they argue, that, if the Church is to 
be manifested in glory with Christ when He 
appears, it must be caught up to meet Him 
before He appears. So fully satisfied was 
their late leader with the force of this argu 
ment, that on the strength of it he declared 
" the Rapture before the appearing of Christ " 
to be " a matter of express revelation 1 ." When, 

1 The Rapture of the Saints,' p. 50. 



190 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

however, we remember that the passage 
admits of being rendered " when Christ, who 
is our life, shall have appeared," we shall pause 
before we sacrifice to an arbitrary interpreta 
tion of a single verse the consentient testi 
mony of the rest of Scripture. Again, we are 
referred to passages which assert that our 
Lord at His appearing will be attended by 
ten thousands of His saints ; from this they 
argue, that if the saints are to accompany our 
Lord on His return from heaven, they must 
have been translated to heaven before His 
return; but a careful comparison of different 
passages bearing on the second advent will 
show that the saints, or " holy ones," who 
will accompany our Lord from heaven, will 
not be the redeemed from among men, but the 
" Holy Angels." It is after this manifestation 
that the elect are to be gathered together. 
Further, the Brethren rely on a distinction 
already alluded to between the napovo-ia, 
coming of Christ, and the 77i<ai>eta, or the 
appearing in glory. But an examination of 
the general use of the former term in the New 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 191 

Testament will make it quite evident that 
the distinction is arbitrary and unfounded, 
and that as a matter of fact the "coming," 
the " appearing," and " the day of the Lord," 
are simply three names for one and the same 
event, viz. our Saviour's second coming in 
glory to judge the world. 

The first time the word irapova-ia occurs is 
in St. Matthew xxiv, where the disciples ask, 
" What shall be the sign of Thy coming (rijs 
fffjs TrapoiKTias), and of the end of the world?" 
and are told in ver. 37 that that Trapowia shall 
dawn upon mankind with the rapidity and 
the visibility of lightning, and shall over 
whelm the careless and sinful as the flood 
overwhelmed the ancient earth, as the fire 
and brimstone from Heaven overwhelmed the 
cities of the plain (vv. 27, 37-40). Here then 
the coming plainly refers to the visible ap 
pearing of the Lord from heaven to gather 
together His elect, and to take vengeance on 
them that know not God ; and accordingly, in 
the parallel passage, St. Luke xvii, we find 
St. Matthew's word vapovaLa paraphrased by 



192 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

the expression " the day in which the Son of 
Man shall be revealed" in other words the 
" coming " is here identified with the " ap 
pearing." Turning to the Epistle to the 
Thessalonians, on which the Brethren appear 
chiefly to rely in dealing with this ques 
tion, we find one passage at least in which 
the "coming" is clearly identified with the 
"appearing;" for the Apostle, in chap. iii. 
5, prays that the hearts of his converts 
may be established blameless in holiness at 
the coming (Ttapovo-ia) of our Lord Jesus 
Christ with all His Saints. The plain indi 
cation afforded by the words " with all His 
Saints," as to the sense of the word " coming" 
in this passage, at once declares its meaning in 
the parallel passage i Thess. v. 23, and might 
naturally lead us to expect a similar use of 
it throughout these two Epistles ; but as this 
conclusion is challenged by the Brethren, we 
must look at the passages in which it occurs 
one by one. In chap. ii. 19 we read, " What 
is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? are 
not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 193 

Christ at His coming?" but a reference to a 
parallel passage in 2 Cor. i. 14 will shew that 
the coming here spoken of is identical with 
that "day of the Lord" from which the 
Brethren so carefully distinguish it. " Ye 
have also acknowledged us in part, that we 
are your rejoicing, as ye also are ours in the 
day of the Lord Jesus." The Brethren indeed 
are willing to allow that the word " coming" 
may sometimes be used to signify the final 
"appearing" of Jesus Christ, but they strongly 
insist that in chap. iv. 15 it has the mean 
ing they assign to it and no other that it 
refers, i. e., not to the day of Christ, but to a 
Rapture of the Saints which is to precede 
that day by a considerable period. Let us 
see how far this is borne out by the context. 
Immediately after describing the circumstances 
of the TTopova-ia, the Apostle goes on to say, 
" But of the times and seasons ye have no need 
that I write unto you ; for yourselves know 
that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief 
in the night, and when men shall say peace 
and all things are safe, then sudden destruc- 



194 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

tion cometh upon them," etc. Here the 
ova- (a, "coming," of chap. iv. 15 is identified 
in chap. v. with the day of the Lord in which 
sudden destruction shall fall upon the wicked, 
while the Thessalonians are exhorted not to 
sleep, but to watch and be sober by way of 
preparing for it. The whole exhortation in 
chap. v. i n, indeed, bears a striking resem 
blance to our Lord's own words on the Mount 
of Olives as recorded by St. Luke xxi. 34: 
" Take heed to yourselves lest at any time 
your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting 
and drunkenness and the cares of this life, 
and so that day come upon you unawares." 
It is clear, then, that the First Epistle 
affords no shelter whatever to the theory 
of the Brethren as to the distinction be 
tween the coming and the appearing, nor 
does the Second Epistle countenance it. For 
in chap. i. the afflicted Thessalonians are 
bidden to look for their final deliverance 
from their troubles, not to any " Rapture of 
the Saints " before the " appearing," but to the 
appearing itself, " when the Lord Jesus shall 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 195 

be revealed from heaven with His mighty 
Angels in naming fire, taking vengeance on 
them that know not God." In the second 
chapter the " coming " is once more identified 
with the day of Christ: "Now we beseech 
you, brethren, touching the 'coming' of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering to 
gether to Him, . . . that ye be not soon 
shaken in mind, neither be troubled as that 
the day of Christ is now at hand." Fur 
ther on we read that that day is to be pre 
ceded by the development of the Apostasy, 
and the manifestation of the man of sin, 
whom the Lord shall consume with the breath 
of His mouth and destroy with the brightness 
of His coming (irapovcria). Here then the irap- 
ovo-ia at which the saints are gathered to 
gether is twice identified with the day of the 
Lord when Antichrist is to be destroyed. It 
may be added that in the Second Epistle of 
St. Peter, whose phraseology is much influ 
enced by St. Paul, when he is dealing with 
the same subjects, the "coming" for which 
Christians are to look is expressly identified 



196 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

with the day " when the heavens being on fire 
shall be dissolved, and the elements shall 
melt with fervent heat" (cp. 2 Pet. iii. 4, 12). 
But the New Testament not only affords 
no grounds for the distinction thus arbitrarily 
drawn by the Brethren, it also distinctly 
refutes it, for it shows first that the Church 
is to remain on earth till "the end of the 
world," i.e. till Christ's final appearing in 
glory ; and secondly, that that appearing and 
not any previous rapture is " the hope of the 
Church." 

The first of these positions is implied in 
several of the passages just quoted, but in no 
part of Scripture is it more clearly set forth 
than in that parable of the tares, which has 
been appealed to in a former chapter. There 
we are expressly told that the good seed, the 
children of the kingdom, are to grow together 
with the tares, the children of the wicked one, 
until the harvest ; and the harvest is identified 
with the end of the world, i.e. with the time 
when the Son of Man shall send forth His 
Angels, and they shall gather out of His king- 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHKEN. 197 

dom all offences and those who do iniquity. 
Indeed, all those discourses in which our 
Lord speaks about His second coming in glory 
imply that those whom He is addressing, 
or rather the Church which they represented, 
would remain on earth till He came. Or why 
does He say to the future founders of His 
Church, when speaking of the signs of His 
appearing, " When these things begin to come 
to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, 
for your redemption draweth nigh." Why 
does He bid them watch lest that day come 
upon them unawares ? Why does He promise 
the same holy men to be with them in their 
work of evangelising the nations "all the 
days even to the end of the world," if long 
before that period comes all Christians are to 
be caught up to meet Him in the air, and 
" not a believer is to be left on the face of 
the whole earth " ? 

Moreover, that the final appearing of our 
Blessed Lord in glory is really the hope of 
the Church is plain as soon as we see that 
the coming and the appearing" are identical. 



198 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

But it is well to notice one or two passages 
in which it is expressly asserted. In Titus 
ii. 13, St. Paul describes Christians as look 
ing for the blessed hope, and glorious ap 
pearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus 
Christ. Again, Timothy is exhorted to keep the 
commandment without spot, without reproach, 
until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The theory we have been considering has 
doubtless arisen partly from a desire to re 
concile those statements of Scripture which 
speak of the coming of Christ as ever impend 
ing, with those which indicate a long series of 
events which are to happen before it arrives. 
Scripture itself reconciles the two sets of state 
ments by reminding us that one day is with 
the Lord as a thousand years, and a thou 
sand years as one day. Surely they need no 
further reconciliation; and if they did, the 
theory of the Brethren would not provide it. 
They tell us that no "signs" or "events" are 
to usher in the " coming ; " but have no events 
taken place since the promise of the coming 
was given? Has not the gospel of the king- 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 199 

dom been preached in nation after nation? 
Have there not been wars and pestilences, 
famines, earthquakes, and persecutions ? In 
other words, have not many of the predicted 
signs of " the appearing " already taken place 
before "the corning"? and if so, where is the 
sense of saying that no event intervenes be 
tween the Christian and the coming of the 
Lord ? To say that events take place on earth 
while the Church's calling is heavenly, and 
that therefore the Church has nothing to do 
with events, is simply " to darken counsel by 
words without knowledge." Indeed, the 
theory of the Brethren on this subject lies 
open to the very same objection which they 
bring against the received doctrine of the 
Church, and it labours moreover, as we have 
shown, -.nder the additional disadvantages 
that it cannot be proved by Holy Writ and 
is repugnant to the plain words of Scrip 
ture." 

(2) We have seen already that the Brethren, 
when pressed with passages from our Lord's 
discourses which militate against their theories 



200 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

as to the Rapture and the Appearing, are wont 
to declare that such passages have nothing to 
do with the Church, but are intended for the 
Jewish remnant in the latter day, and are 
addressed to the Apostles, not as representing 
the Church, but as representing that remnant. 
We have seen also that they regard the rem 
nant as founders of a dispensation differing 
in some important particulars from that 
under which we live, and indeed closely re 
sembling that which it displaced. How far 
are their views on this subject borne out by 
the Scriptures to which they appeal? 

Now " the remnant " is an expression bor 
rowed from the Old Testament, and employed 
by the New Testament writers to designate 
those Jews who accepted the offer of the gospel 
salvation, and were accordingly admitted by 
baptism into the Church of Christ. To this 
remnant belonged the holy Apostles them 
selves ; to this remnant belonged the three 
thousand who were added to the Church at 
Pentecost ; while St. Paul in his Epistle to 
the Romans, after dwelling on and accounting 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 201 

for the temporary rejection of the Jews, takes 
comfort in the thought that amid the general 
rejection there was still, as in the days of 
Elias, a remnant according to an election of 
grace (a remnant to which he himself be 
longed), whose very existence was a proof that 
God had not cast away His people a pledge 
that in the end He would have mercy upon 
them all. This Jewish remnant in fact formed 
the nucleus of the Christian Church : " To these l 
first God having raised up His Son Jesus 
sent Him to bless them;" these were they 
who "first trusted in Christ 2 ; " and those 
who from among the Gentiles turned to God 
in after days were added to them, made one 
body with them. We should naturally infer 
from this that "the Jewish remnant of the 
latter day " would consist, like the remnant of 
Apostolic times, of those Jew T s who will re 
cognise in Jesus Christ their long-expected 
Messiah, and seek for admission to those 
privileges of the Christian dispensation which 
the mass of their countrymen have for so 

1 Acts iii. 26. 2 Ephesians i. 12. 



202 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

many centuries rejected. But we are not left 
to conjecture in this matter. The very pas 
sages to which the Brethren refer us, as indi 
cating God's future dealings with the Jews, 
bear in many cases the most express testi 
mony to their admission to the very privileges 
which we enjoy. Take first the passage of 
Zechariah xii. 13, "I will pour upon the house 
of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the 
spirit of grace and of supplication, and they 
shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and 
shall mourn ; . . and in that day there shall be 
a fountain opened to the house of David and to 
the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for 
uncleanness." Here we have a description of 
true repentance a repentance founded on a 
recognition of Him against whom they had 
sinned, and consequently involving that faith 
in Him, which is required of all who would 
enjoy Christian privilege. Then on this re 
pentance and faith there follows that admis 
sion to the fountain for sin and uncleanness, 
which is an especial characteristic of our 
dispensation. All this was literally ful- 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 203 

filled in that portion of the remnant which 
heard the gospel from St. Peter on the great 
day of Pentecost; and we have already 
learned from St. Paul, that the mercies then 
bestowed on them and on those who after 
wards obeyed the same call, are an earnest 
and a pledge of the eventual extension of the 
same blessings to the nation at large. Or 
take the prophecy of Jeremiah, which Mr. 
Darby, in his pamphlet on the Law, expressly 
refers to the remnant in the latter day : " This 
is the covenant that I will make with them 
in those days, saith the Lord ; I will put My 
laws in their inward parts and write them 
upon their hearts . . and all shall know Me 
from the least unto the greatest, for I will be 
merciful to their unrighteousness, and their 
sins and their iniquities I will remember no 
more." In these last words we have the 
Christian privilege of pardon and justifica 
tion clearly set forth as the future portion 
of Israel. In the earlier verses we find the 
privilege of sanctification also assured to 
them, while the writer of the Epistle to the 



204 THE HISTOEY AND TEACHING 

Hebrews 1 expressly cites these verses as de 
scriptive of the present dispensation, and thus 
identifies the future relations of God with His 
people Israel with His present relations with 
those whom He has called from among the 
Gentiles. 

A similar conclusion follows from the pro 
phecy of Amos, which is cited by St. James 
in the Council of Jerusalem : " After these 
things, I will return and build up again the 
tabernacle of David that is fallen down, and 
will build again the ruins thereof and will 
set it up, that the residue of men might seek 
the Lord." Now St. James in the speech 
above alluded to sees the fulfilment of this 
prophecy in that gathering, first of Jewish, 
then of Gentile converts into the Christian 
Church which his own days had witnessed. 
The Brethren believe that it has a yet further 
fulfilment awaiting it in the faithful remnant 
at the latter day, and in the rapid spread of 
the knowledge of God among the Gentiles 
through their ministry. Such a view is not 

1 Hebrews x. 15-17. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHBEN. 205 

a contradiction, but simply an extension of 
St. James's inspired interpretation. But surely 
when read in the light of St. James's speech, 
the prophecy suggests not the inauguration of 
a new dispensation "with Jewish hopes and 
Jewish promises," but the admission of God's 
ancient people into the Christian covenant. 

Or, to turn once more to St. Paul's declara 
tions in Romans xi, have we not a clear 
indication of the very same truth in the fol 
lowing passage, " If the casting away of them 
be the reconciling of the world, what shall 
the receiving of them be but life from the 
dead?" It must be clear, I think, that the 
casting away here referred to consisted not in 
the loss of earthly privileges, but in their 
exclusion from those spiritual blessings of 
the Christian covenant of which they had 
"judged themselves unworthy;" but if so, 
to what can the receiving of them refer, 
but to their eventual admission to these 
privileges ? 

It is not of course denied that there are 
indications in ancient prophecy that a period 



206 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

of great temporal prosperity will follow on 
the restoration of Israel to the divine favour, 
though the practice adopted by Scripture 
writers of representing spiritual blessings 
under earthly images should warn us against 
pressing a literal interpretation on all such 
passages. Still, allowing that such a period 
of prosperity is awaiting them, we must still 
insist, that the greatest of all the blessings 
in store for them will be their admission into 
that covenant of grace, which their fathers 
rejected of old. Whatever earthly blessings 
may be their lot in the latter day, it is to these 
spiritual blessings that the writers of the New 
Testament evermore direct their thoughts ; 
and therefore the Brethren, in maintaining 
the Jewish character of the expectations, 
the worship, the privileges, of the restored 
sons of Israel, in declaring that they "have 
no portion either in the Church's heavenly 
blessings, or in the Church's hope," are really 
robbing the bright and glorious future which 
Scripture spreads before them, of what is 
indeed its chief joy. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHREN. 207 

It will follow from all this, that the distinc 
tion drawn by the Brethren between the ever 
lasting gospel to be preached by the Jewish 
remnant, and the gospel of the grace of God 
with which the Church is charged, cannot be 
maintained. If the remnant are to be ad 
mitted to the privileges of the Christian 
covenant, they can preach no other gospel 
than that which they have received as par 
takers of that covenant 1 . 

When the Brethren argue that because the 
everlasting gospel spoken of in the Revela 
tion is ushered in by a call " to fear God and 
give Him glory," and by an announcement of 
approaching judgment, that therefore that 
everlasting gospel must needs be different 
from the message of mercy contained in the 
gospel of peace, they are forgetting that the 
Christian dispensation itself was ushered in 
by a like warning of judgment, a like call to 
repentance : " Flee from the wrath to come ; " 
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit 
is hewn down and cast into the fire ; " " Whose 
1 Gal. i. 8, 9. 



208 THE HISTOEY AND TEACHING 

fan is in His hand, and He shall throughly 
purge His floor." These were the words with 
which the great forerunner heralded the 
coming kingdom of the Lord. Nor was the 
warning different when the message of mercy 
was proclaimed by St. Paul among the Gen 
tiles : " God cornmandeth all men every 
where to repent, because He hath appointed 
a day in which He will judge the world in 
righteousness " (Acts xvii. 31). Indeed it seems 
to be God's method to introduce His offers of 
mercy by distinct warnings against the sins 
from which that mercy saves us, and against 
the ultimate consequences of those sins if un- 
forsaken. These considerations go to shew 
that the angelic warning quoted above, so 
far from distinguishing the everlasting gospel 
from the gospel of the grace of God, rather 
serves to identify them. 

It is clear then that there is no breach of 
continuity between the Christian Church as 
represented by the Gentiles now, and the 
believing Jewish remnant at the latter day; 
both are represented in Scripture as grafted 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 209 

into the same olive-tree, even into that mys 
tical body of Christ in which Jew and Gentile 
are one. As the Gentiles who in early days 
believed and were baptized became " fellow 
heirs and of one body" with the converted 
remnant of Israel, so will the remnant of the 
Jews who "turn to the Lord" at the latter 
day become "fellow heirs and of one body" 
with those who had been previously called 
from among the Gentiles ; and thus the Chris 
tian Church from first to last will retain the 
character ascribed to it in Scripture as the 
Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the 
heavenly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem above, 
which is the mother of us all. It will be 
remembered that St. Paul assures us that the 
reception of God's ancient people into the 
Divine covenant will be "life from the dead" 
to the Gentile world, i. e. will result in a large 
accession to the Church from among the 
heathen. But this bright prospect would be 
hopelessly clouded over, if the remnant, in 
stead of accepting the faith once delivered to 
the saints, are to become the inaugurators of 
p 



210 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

a quasi-legal dispensation, the preachers of a 
retrograde Gospel. 

(3) The third subject which comes under no 
tice in connection with the views of prophecy 
in vogue among the Brethren is the Last 
Judgment. The Brethren deny that there is 
any universal judgment, in which all men 
will be called before the throne of Christ, and 
receive according to their works. We have 
seen already how they dispose of the judg 
ment scene in St. Matt. xxv. 31-46, which 
seems to contradict this view, viz. by referring 
it to a judgment upon living nations, which is 
to precede the setting up of Christ's kingdom 
on earth. We have seen also that the judg 
ment scene in Rev. xx. is explained by them 
as referring to a judgment of the wicked 
dead only. A careful examination of these 
two passages, and a comparison of them with 
each other, will effectually remove the gloss 
by which the Brethren have robbed them of 
their right interpretation, and will show that 
the matter treated of in both passages is the 
same, viz. the final judgment of the human 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 211 

race. To take first the scene set before us 
in St. Matt. xxv. The very words by which 
it is introduced, "When the Son of Man 
shall come in His glory, and all the holy 
angels with Him," serve to connect the pro 
phetic description that follows with an earlier 
declaration of our Lord's, "The Son of Man 
shall come in the glory of His Father with 
His angels, and then He shall reward every 
man according to his work." In this passage 
our Lord is clearly speaking of an universal 
judgment in connection with His own coming 
in glory " He shall reward every man," 
even as we read in St. Matthew, "before Him 
shall be gathered all nations." Again, as the 
judgment in both passages is universal, so 
the principle of judgment is in each passage 
the same, " He shall reward every man ac 
cording to his work ;" " Inasmuch as ye have 
done it unto the least of these, ye have done 
it unto Me. Inasmuch as ye did it not to the 
least of these My brethren, ye did it not to 
Me." And further, the decision in each case 
is a final one. For the passage in St. Matt. 



212 THE HISTOEY AND TEACHINGS 

xvi. is introduced by way of enforcing the 
solemn question, " What shall it profit a man 
if he shall gain the whole world and lose his 
own soul, or what shall a man give in ex 
change for his soul?" while the scene described 
in chapter xxv. concludes with the words, 
" These shall go away into everlasting punish 
ment, and the righteous into life eternal." 

Now compare all this with the judgment 
scene in Rev. xx. Here we have the throne 
set, and one sitting thereon, the books opened, 
the dead, small and great, standing before 
God, and judged out of the things written 
in the books according to their works. Those 
who are not found written in the book of 
life are cast into the lake of fire ; those who 
are found written therein are admitted to 
heavenly joys of the new Jerusalem 1 . Is it 
not clear that both descriptions refer to one 
event? The only point of difference is, that 
in the latter the dead only are mentioned, 
while in the former the subjects of the judg 
ment are said to be " all nations." But it is 

1 Kev. zxi. 27. 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHKEN. 213 

the method of Holy Scripture, in dealing with 
a great subject like this, to present now one 
aspect of it, now another, in order that every 
portion of the truth may be in turn impressed 
upon the mind. Thus in the discourse on 
the Mount of Olives, though so much is 
said about the judgment, not a word is said 
about the resurrection ; the disciples are ad 
dressed throughout as though they would still 
be living when the second Advent takes 
place. Not because there will be no resur 
rection before the final judgment, but because 
our Blessed Lord, desiring to impress on His 
disciples' minds the reality and certainty of 
the judgment, places it in the foreground of 
His description, and makes no mention of the 
event which must usher it in. 

In other passages, as in i Cor. xv, we hear 
of the resurrection without a word about the 
judgment, not because no judgment is to 
follow the resurrection, but because the Spirit 
is in these passages impressing upon us an 
other portion of the truth. 

In short, the different declarations of Holy 



214 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

Scripture on this mysterious subject are meant 
to supplement each other, and our ideas con 
cerning it are to be gathered, not from this or 
that particular passage only, but from a com 
prehensive view of all. We must never there 
fore conclude from the omission of some one 
circumstance in this or that particular passage, 
that it is to be omitted from our conception 
of the judgment as a whole ; nor when an 
other passage supplies the omission, must we 
conclude that the two passages must refer to 
distinct events. This principle is so obvious 
and so familiar to most readers of Holy 
Scripture, that it would be superfluous to 
dwell upon it, were it not that the Brethren 
in dealing with this and kindred subjects 
systematically ignore it. 

Turning now to the second chapter of 
Romans, we find another distinct assertion 
of the universality of the judgment. Here, 
too, the rule of judgment is the same with 
that which has been already mentioned: 
" He shall render to every man according to 
his deeds; to them that by patient continu- 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 215 

ance in well-doing seek for glory and honour 
and immortality eternal life ; " while to those 
who are contentious, and do not obey the 
truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will 
be indignation and wrath, tribulation and 
anguish. Here, then, we find good and evil 
alike concerned in the final judgment, both 
alike receiving, without respect of persons, 
according to their works, " in the day when 
God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus 
Christ." This last passage carries back our 
thoughts to a much earlier declaration on 
the same subject in the Book of Ecclesiastes, 
where it is declared that "God shall bring 
every work into judgment, with every secret 
thing, whether it be good or whether it be 
evil." 

Later on, in the Epistle to the Romans, 
there is if possible a still more emphatic 
assertion, that believers as well as unbelievers 
will have to endure the scrutiny of the great 
day. In chapter xiv. the Apostle is exhort 
ing Christians to avoid the sins of judging 
or despising each other; and he enforces his 



216 THE HISTORY AND TEACHING 

teaching by the reflection, "For we must all 
stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;" 
" We shall each of us give account of himself 
to God. Let us therefore not judge one 
another any more." In 2 Cor. v. we have 
another testimony to the same truth. "We 
labour," says the Apostle, "that whether pre 
sent or absent (i.e. whether alive or dead at 
the coming of Christ) we may be accepted 
of Him. For we must all (i. e. all Christians) 
be made manifest before the judgment -seat 
of Christ, that every one of us may receive 
the things done in the body, according to that 
he hath done, whether it be good or evil." 
This the Brethren explain by saying that the 
saints will appear with Christ in glory, and 
receive the rewards of service, but will not 
be judged according to their works. But 
how can such a gloss be reconciled with the 
solemn words which follow the Apostle's de 
claration, "Knowing, therefore, the terror of 
the Lord, we persuade men " ? 

Again, St. Peter, in addressing those who 
were elect according to the foreknowledge of 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 217 

God the Father, who were being kept by the 
power of God through faith unto salvation, 
urges them to pass the time of their sojourn 
ing here in fear, on the very ground that the 
Father whom they worshipped was one, who, 
without respect of persons, judges according 
to every man's work ; but what would be 
the force of such an exhortation if the saints 
are not to be judged at all, or at all events 
not to be judged according to their works'? 
It would be easy to multiply quotations in 
defence of a truth which stands in the very 
forefront of the Gospel revelation, but the 
passages just quoted may suffice. 

The hostility of the Brethren to the doc 
trine of an universal judgment arises to a 
great extent from an idea that any view of 
judgment being according to works must be 
" legal." Hence their constant endeavours to 
refer all passages which imply such a judg 
ment to God's future dealings either with the 
Jews or the heathen. In their eagerness to 
vindicate the gratuitousness of the Divine 
mercy bestowed upon the Church, they lay 



218 THE HISTOKY AND TEACHING 

far too little stress on the return which God 
requires from those to whom so much has 
been given, and on His repeated declarations 
that He will require of each one of them an 
account of the return they have made. It 
must be remembered, moreover, that the ob 
ject of the day of judgment, as set before us 
in Scripture, is not merely the final disposal 
of man, but the vindication of God's jus 
tice and mercy before the assembled creation. 
But how can this vindication take place 
unless there be a complete unveiling of the 
hidden things of darkness, a complete mani 
festation of the counsels of the hearts "? All 
this of course the Brethren will fully admit 
as far as the wicked are concerned ; but we 
may ask further, how can the depths of God's 
" goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering," 
in the case of each soul among the saved, be 
fully manifested, unless the sins against which 
His grace and mercy had to strive are to be 
manifested also 1 ? When Scripture speaks of 
God putting away the sins of believers, and 
remembering them no more, it means that He 



OF THE PLYMOUTH BKETHKEN. 219 

will not impute them for condemnation l ; it 
does not mean that such sins will form an 
exception to the universal rule, " There is 
nothing secret which shall not be made 
manifest, neither anything hidden but that 
it shall be known and come abroad." 

For these and other reasons the subject of 
the final judgment had a very prominent 
place in the teaching of the ancient Church, 
and in the thoughts of the early Christians. 
It was one of those four last things on which 
they were taught to meditate daily. In the 
light of that day they were to view all their 
thoughts, words, and deeds, to endeavour to 
see them here as they will see them there ; 
and thus the thought of the coming scrutiny 
became one of the greatest safeguards of the 
spiritual life, checking those tendencies to 
self-complacency on the one hand, and to 
presumptuous confidence in God's favour on 
the other, which their high gifts and graces 
might otherwise have produced in them. And 

1 SeeHebr.x. 17, 18: " Their sins and their iniquities will 
I remember no more. Now where remission of these is," &c. 



220 HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. 

the same doctrine has performed the same 
good office in every age towards those who 
have made the same practical use of it. But 
if men are to be taught that if they believe 
on Christ they will not be judged at all, or 
not be judged according to their works, the 
practical safeguard provided by this great 
truth is taken away, and their souls become 
exposed at once to one or other of those 
subtle forms of temptation of which mention 
has been made. Happily men are often much 
better than their theories, and so these evils 
may not always follow in point of fact : but 
still false principles have a terrible way of 
working out their natural consequences in 
those who are nurtured in them ; and it 
would be a bad omen indeed for the future 
of English religion were the erroneous teach 
ing of the Brethren on this subject to be 
generally received. 

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